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Preface to the Second Revised Edition, 

Part I: The Irish Edge 



A Cromwellian Settler Makes 
an Irish Testament 


A Man's Life 

The Nature of Love 

Father Prout's Sermon 

The Parish Priest Reproves 
and Encourages His 
Flock: A Sermon 

There's Always a Good 

Mr. Dooley on New Year's 

A Duel with Words 

The Difference Between 
Youth and Age 

How O'Connell Won the 
Championship of Bil- 

A Story about King Solo- 

Mr. Dooley on Criminals 







How Two Irish Emissaries 
Came to a British Prime 
Minister Who Was Also 
a Fellow-Celt 
Two of a Kind 
Irish Justice 

How the Farmer Got Free 
Pasturage from the As- 
Queen Victoria's After-Din- 

ner Speech 
How Aristotle Outwitted 

His Wife 
Irish Bulls: Definition 
Irish Bulls: Example 
Brendan Behan: Master of 

the Irish Edge 
The Widow Malone 
A Few Jigs and Reels 
A Poet Makes His Own 

Part II: Heroes of Old 

The Celts 


The Tuatha De Danaan 

The Magic Song Amergin 

Utters Against the 

Wind Raised by the De 

The Invaders of Ireland 
The Duel of Cu Chullain 

and His Son 
Pillow Talk 

The Combat at the Ford 
Cu Chullain's Lament Over 

Deirdre of the Sorrows 
The High-Kingship 






Instructions of a King 

Dermott and Grania 

The Death of Dermott 

The Gruff Gillie 

The Return of Oisin and 
His Meeting with Saint 

Saint Patrick 

Saint Colum-cille Foretells 
What Saint Patrick 
Will Do for the Men 
and Women of Ireland 
on the Day of Judg- 













How Colum-cille Saved the 

Poets' Guild 127 

Brian Boru 132 

The Unbroken Line of 

O'Briens 140 

Part III: Great Chiefs and Uncrowned Kings 

The Two Hughs 164 

Letter from Hugh O'Neill, 
Earl of Tyrone, to Sir 
John McCoughleyn 142 

Introduction 143 

Garret More Fitzgerald, 

Earl of Kildare 144 

Shane O'Neil 146 

Grace O'Malley, Irish Sea 

Queen 152 

Brian of the Ramparts 

O'Rourke 158 

The Nine Years' War: Its 

Leaders and Battles 162 

The Battle of the Yellow 

Ford 175 

O'Neill and His National 
Confederacy Against 
Essex ] 79 

The Battle of the Curlew 

Mountains 182 

The Disastrous Battle of 

Kinsale 205 

Irish War-Cries 211 

Part IV: Ireland Without Leaders 

The Last Soldier-Leader 218 

Introduction 219 
Dedication of The Annals 

of the Four Masters 224 

Dudley Mac Firbis 224 
Owen Roe O'Neill's Speech 

at Benburb 226 
An Officer Describes the 

Rout at Benburb 227 
Oliver Cromwell Reports on 

the Taking of Drogheda 

(Tredah) 228 

Pierce Ferriter, Outlaw Hero 229 

The Rapparees 232 

Turlough O'Carolan 234 
O'Carolan's Address to Cian 

O'Hara's Cup 235 

Costello and the Fair Oona 236 

The Truth about Fontenoy 243 

An Irish Priest Administers 
the Last Sacrament to 
the King of France 248 

The Abb6 Mac Gcoghegan 
to the Irish Troops in 
the Service of France 257 
Michael Dwyer 259 

Billy Byrne of Ballymanus 264 
The Battle of Ballygullen 265 
Lord Edward Fitzgerald 271 

John Philpot Curran 276 

Curran Defends the Rebels 279 
Curran and Robert Emmet 283 
Robert Emmet, on Being 
Found Guilty of Trea- 
son 284 
The Story of Sarah Curran 288 
Wolfe Tone, on Being 
Found Guilty of Trea- 
son 293 

Part V: New Leaders at Home and Abroad 

Demolishment 298 

Introduction 299 

Daniel O'Connell 300 

O'Connell at the Hill of 

Tara 304 

O'Connell's Speech in the 

Magee Case 
O'Connell's Last Case 
Blind* Raftery 
Raftery the Poet 




The Last Gleeman 318 
John Barry, Father of the 

American Navy 322 

The 69th in Virginia 326 

Ambrose O'Higgins of Chile 33 1 
The Wandering Hawk: 

Chief of the Fenians 332 

Charles Stewart Parnell 335 
Gladstone on Parnell: An 

Interview 340 
Two Whose Names Have 

Gone Round the World 343 

Captain Boycott 343 

Judge Lynch of Galway 349 

How Dan Donnelly Knocked 
Out the British Cham- 
pion 350 
Champion of Champions 354 
Gentleman Jim Corbett De- 
feats John L. 364 
Beyond Life 371 
Thomas MacDonagh, Poet 
and Insurrectionary 
Leader 371 
Collins' Last Days 377 
The Chieftain: Michael 

Collins 382 

John McCormack 384 

Part VI: Ways and Traditions 

The Commodities of Aqua 

Vitae 388 

The Harp 389 

The Shamrock 392 

A Four-Leaved Shamrock 395 
Fairies: The Banshee and 

the Leprechaun 396 

The Shillelagh 397 
The Potato and the Clay 

Pipe 399 
Potato Specialties: Tradi- 
tional Recipes 401 
Donnybrook Fair 403 
Puck Fair 405 
Wedding 406 
The Strawboys at the Wed- 

ing 408 

A Wake in the Old Times 409 
A Husband Laments His 

Wife 412 

Charms 413 

A Few Prayers 415 

Saint Patrick's Breastplate 416 

A Few Riddles 418 

The Toast 419 

A Few Sayings 419 

Oaths, Curses, Blessings 420 
Ireland and Scotland Ex- 
change Instruments 426 
Irish Pipes and Pipers 427 
Pilgrims 430 
The Ploughman 431 
Luck's Way in the Morning 433 
Service in Scotland 433 
A Boy Wins the Farmers* 

Race 439 
Throwing the Sledge Ham- 
mer 446 
These Dogs Are Older than 

History 448 

The Otter Hunter's Story 450 

The Old Fox Hunter 453 

The Tavern 454 

The Cruiskeen Lawn 458 

Beside the Fire 459 

Folkways in Aran 460 
The Last Fortress of the 

Celt 461 

Leaving Home 466 

Do You Remember? 468 

A "Wake" for the Emigrant 469 

Part VII: Fireside Tales 

Introduction 475 

The Way of the Leprecaun 476 

The Kildare Lurikeen 
The Shannon Mermaid 



The Kerry Mermaid 479 

Daniel Crowley and the 

Ghosts 483 

In Memory of the Story- 
Teller, PadraicO'Conaire 474 

The Student Who Disap- 
peared 487 

The Strange Tale of 

O'Neill's Son 490 

The Woman Who Went to 

Hell 492 

The Palace in the Rath 496 

The Meanest Man in 

Munster 499 

John Connors and the 

Fairies 502 

Why the Weariness of the 
Blacksmiths Falls upon 
the Cowherds 508 

The Piper and the Puca 509 

How Little Fairly Out- 
witted His Commoch 
Brother 511 

The Globan Saor 530 

The Gloss Gavlen 534 

The Shee an Gannon and 

the Gruagach Gaire 538 

The Horned Women 545 

Part Villi The Face of the Land 

Ireland Delineated 




Irish Landscape 


Maynooth Castle 




Loch Sah in Donegal 


A Bit of the North 

The Bright Dwellings 


the Legend of ] 


Once Alien Here 






A Dream of Inishmaan 


To a Hedgehog 


The Ruins Speak 


The Battle of the Boyne 


Life in the Castles 


The Ould Orange Flute 
Johnny's the Lad I Love 





Blarney Castle 


Part IX: Ballads and Songs 

The Minstrel's Invitation 588 

Introduction 589 

John O'Dwyer of the Glens 591 

The Shan Van Vocht 592 

Ballynure Ballad 593 

Molly Brannigan 594 

I Know Where I'm Coin' 596 
'Tis Pretty to Be in Ballin- 

derry 596 

The Snowy Breasted Pearl 597 
The Paisteen Fionn (The 

Fair-Haired Child) 598 

Eileen Aroon 599 
She Moved Through the 

Fair 600 

I Know My Love 601 

The Coolin 602 

"Thank You, Ma'am," Says 

Dan 603 

The Girl I Left Behind Me 604 
"Johnny I Hardly Knew 

Ye" 605 
The Lamentation of Hugh 

Reynolds 607 

The Leprehaun 608 

The Cruiskeen Lawn 609 
The Star of the County 

Down 610 

Finnegan's Wake 611 
The Maid of the Sweet 

Brown Knowe 612 

The Derry Air 613 

Suantree 613 

Index 615 

Part I 

A Cromwellian Settler Makes an 
Irish Testament 

I. John Langley, born at Wincanton, in Somersetshire, and set- 
tled in Ireland in the year 1651, now in my right mind and wits do 
make my will in my own handwriting. I do leave all my house 
goods, and farm at Black Kettle of 253 acres to my soil, commonly 
called 'Stubborn Jack,' to him and his heirs forever, provided he 
marries a Protestant, but not Alice Kcnrick, who called me 'Oliver's 
whelp.' My new buckskin breeches and my silver tobacco stopper 
with 'J.L.' on the top I give to Richard Richards, my comrade, who 
helped me off at the storming of Clonmel when I was shot through 
the leg. My said son John shall keep my body above ground six days 
and six nights after I am dead; and Grace Kenrick shall lay me out, 
who shall have for so doing five shillings. My body shall be put 
upon the oak table in the brown room, and fifty Irishmen shall be 
invited to my wake and every one shall have two quarts of the best 
aqua vitae, and each one one skein, dish and knife before him, and 
when the liquor is out nail up the coffin, and commit me to the 
earth whence I came. This is my will; witness my hand this 3rd of 
March, 1674." 

John Langley 

From My Clonmel Scrap Book, compiled by James White. Dundalgan Press. 
Dundalk, Ireland. 


The editor is in a third-class railway carriage on a West of Ireland 
railway. The man who had left to get some refreshment at a stop comes 
back with a sandwich in his hand. Looking at it, he says earnestly, 
"Two slices of stale bread and a slice of ham between like an autumn 
leaf." Nowhere else, the editor realizes, could one hear such an expres- 
sion. The passenger is not striving to be witty or humorous. He is pass- 
ing a judgment on the sandwich in hand. His opinion is in reason, but 
the expression of that opinion is in terms of imagination. 

The editor is seated with a countrywoman at the door of her cottage 
in an isolated place. Three young girls on their way to a dance come 
along. They adjust their head-shawls, showing off a little. "They are 
pretty girls," the editor says to the householder. "If they were hanged 
for their beauty, they'd die innocent," is her reply. This is a real piece 
of wit. She did not want to contradict one who is her guest. He has 
shown, however, that his standard of beauty leaves something to be 
desired. Her judgment of the beauty under consideration is reasonable, 
but the expression of it is imaginative. 

When one puts imagination at the service of criticism, the result is 
apt to be a piece of malice, and Irish wit is often malicious. An illustra- 
tion in a Dublin journal shows two farmers seated on a boundary fence. 
"I don't see a gap in the moon tonight," one says; and the other an- 
swers, "If you did you could let your cows in through it." This strikes 
at the farmer who would save forage by letting his cows into his neigh- 
bor's field through a gapped fence. But the reasonable stated in imag- 
inative terms need not be malicious. To the Irish dramatist with the 
unlikely name of Dion Boucicault. a lady in New York said. "But you 
are not really an Irishman, Mr. Boucicault." "Madam, nature did me 
that honor." 

The combination of reason and imagination is not only in the in- 
stances of wit and humor — there, of course, being brief, it is most 
effective; it is in all Irish discourse when that discourse is at its best. To 
George Berkeley, immaterialism rests on reason. But the argument is 
demonstrated by his imagination. "All the choir of heaven and the 
furniture of the earth, in a word, all those bodies which compose the 
mighty frame of the world, have not any subsistence without a mind." 
It is a far cry from the philosopher to the comic poet celebrating his 
Mollie Brallaghan: 

The place where my heart was, you might easy rowl a turnip in, 
It's the size of all Dublin and from that to the Divil's Glin. 

4 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

The singer takes as reasonable the convention that a girl steals a man's 
heart. That reasonableness is given an imaginative issue: its outrageous- 
ness corresponds with the outrageousness of the convention. 

Perhaps we could say that what is startling in Irish wit and humor 
and exciting in all forms of Irish discourse is the expression of a mind 
whose spiritual allegiance is to reason and whose linguistic allegiance is 
to imagination. — P.C. 


A Man's Life 

You see, my boy, a man's life naturally divides itself into three dis- 
tinct periods. The first is that when he is planning and contriving all 
sorts of villainy and rascality; that is the period of youth and inno- 
cence. The second is that in which he is putting into practice the 
villainy and rascality he contrived before; that is the prime of life or 
the flower of manhood. The third and last period is that in which he 
is making his soul and preparing for another world; that is the period 
of dotage. 

The Nature of Love 

Well, now, he was really stupid with love; there wasn't a bit of fun 
left in him. He was good for nothing on earth but sitting under bushes, 
smoking tobacco and sighing till you'd wonder where he got the wind 
for it all. Now you might as well be persuading the birds against flying, 
or striving to coax the stars out of the sky into your hat, as to be talk- 
ing commonsense to them that's fairly bothered and bursting with love. 
There's nothing like it. The toothache and colic together would com- 
pose you better for an argument; it leaves you fitted for nothing but 
nonsense. It's stronger than whiskey, for one good drop of it will leave 
you drunk for a year, and sick, begorra, for ten; it's stronger than the 
sea, for it will carry you around the world, and never let you sink in 
sunshine or in storm; and, begorra, it's stronger than Death himself, 
for it is not afeared of him, but dares him in every shape. But lovers do 
have their quarrels sometimes; and, begorra, when they do, you'd 
almost think they hated one another like man and wife. 

A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

Father Prout's Sermon 

Somewhere in the Scriptures it is written that whoever gives to the 
poor lends to the Lord. There are three reasons why I don't tell you 
exactly where this may be found. In the first place, poor creatures that 
you are, few of you happen to have the authorized Douay edition, 
printed and published by Richard Coyne of Dublin, and certified as 
correct by Archbishop Troy, and the other heads of the Church in 
Ireland — few among you, I say, have that, though I know there is not 
a house in the parish without a loose song-book or the History of the 
Irish Rogues. In the second place, if ye had it, 'tis few of yc could read 
it, ignorant haythens that ye are. And in the third place, if every man- 
jack of ye did possess it, and could read it, (for the church still admits 
the possibility of miracles) , it would not much matter at the present 
moment, because it happens that I don't quite remember in what part 
of it the text is to be found — for the wickedness of my flock has affected 
my memory, and driven many things clean out of my head, which it 
took me a deal of trouble to put into it when I was studying in foreign 
parts, years ago. But it don't matter. The fault is not mine, but yours, 
ye unnatural crew, and maybe you won't find it out, to your cost, before 
ye have been five minutes quit of this life. Amen. 

"He who gives to the poor." Ye are not skilled in logic, nor indeed 
in anything I know except playing hurley in the fields, scheming at 
cards in public houses for half-gallons of porter, and defrauding your 
clergy of their lawful dues. What is worse, there's no use in trying to 
drive logic into your heads, for indeed that would be the fulfillment 
of another text that speaks of throwing pearls before pigs. But if ye did 
know logic — which ye don't — ye would perceive at once that the 
passage I have just quoted naturally divides itself into two branches. 
The first involves the giving; that is, rationally and syllogistically con- 
sidered, what ye ought to do. And the second involves the poor; that 
is, the receivers of the gifts, or the persons for whom ye ought to do it. 
First, then, as to the giving. Now it stands to reason that, as the 
Scripture says in some other place, the blind can't lead the blind, be- 
cause maybe they'd fall into the bog-holes, poor things, and get 
drowned. And so, though there really is wonderful kindness to each 

"Faiher Prout" was lhe invention of the humorous Francis Sylvester Mahony. This 
piece is not given in The Reliques of Father Proul, and so may be by an imitator 
of Mahony's. The editor took it from an old broadsheet. 

The Irish Edge 7 

other among them, it is not to be expected that the poor can give to 
the poor. No, the givers must be people who have something to give, 
which the poor have not. Some of ye will try and get off on this head, 
and say that 'tis gladly enough ye'd give, but that really ye can't afford 
it. Can't ye? If you make up your minds, any one of you, to give up 
only a single glass of spirits, every day of your lives, see what it will 
come to in the course of a year, and devote that to the Church — that is 
to the Clergy — and it will be more than some of the well-to-do fanners, 
whom I have in my eye at this blessed moment, have had the heart to 
give me during the last twelve months. Why, as little as a penny a day 
comes to more than thirty shillings in the year, and even that insignifi- 
cant trifle I have not had from some of you that have the means and 
ought to know better. I don't want to mention names, but Tom Mur- 
phy of the Glen, I am afraid I shall be compelled to name you before 
the whole congregation, some day before long, if you don't pay up 
your lawful dues. I won't say more now on that subject, for, as Saint 
Augustine says, "A nod's as good as a wink to a blind horse." 

Now, the moral of the first part being clearly shown, that all who 
can give ought to give, the next branch is to whom should it be given? 
The blessed text essentially states and declares "to the poor." Then 
follows the inquiry, who's "the poor"? The whole matter depends on 

I dare say, ignorant as ye arc, some of ye will think it's the beggars 
and the cripples, and the blind travelers who contrive to get through 
the length and breadth of the country, guided by Providence and a 
little dog tied to their fingers by a bit of string. No, I don't want to 
say one mortal word against that sort of cattle, or injure them in their 
honest calling. God help them. It's their trade, their estate, their occu- 
pation, their business to beg— just as much as 'tis Pat Mulcahy's busi- 
ness to tailor, or Jerry Smith's to make carts, or Tom Shine's to shoe 
horses, or Din Cotter's to make potheen, and my business to preach 
sermons, and save your souls, ye heathens. But these aren't "the poor" 
meant in the text. They're used to begging, and they like to beg, and 
they thrive on begging, and I, for one, wouldn't be the man to disturb 
them in the practice of their profession, and long may it be a provision 
to them and to their heirs for ever. Amen. 

Maybe, ye mean-spirited creatures, some among you will say that it 
is yourselves is "the poor." Indeed, then, it isn't. Poor enough and 
niggardly ye are, but you aren't the poor contemplated by holy Moses 
in the text. Sure 'tis your nature to toil and to slave— sure 'tis what 
ye're used to. Therefore, if any one were to give anything to you, he 
would not be lending to the Lord in the slightest degree, but throw- 

8 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

ing away his money as completely as if he lent it upon the security of 
land that's covered by the lakes of Killarney. Don't flatter yourselves, 
any of you, for a moment, that you are "the poor." I can tell you that 
you're nothing of the sort. 

Now, then, we have found out who should be the givers. There's no 
mistake about that — reason and logic unite in declaring that every one 
of you. man, woman and child, should give, and strain a point to do it 
liberally. Next, we have ascertained that it's "the poor" who should 
receive what you give. Thirdly, we have determined who are not "the 
poor." Lastly, we must discover who are. 

Let each of you put on his considering cap and think — well, I have 
paused that you might do so. Din Cotter is a knowledgeable man com- 
pared with the bulk of you. I wonder whether he has discovered who 
are "the poor." He shakes his head — but there is not much in that. 
Well, then, you give it up. You leave it to me to enlighten you all. 
Learn, then, to your shame, that it 's the Clergy who are "the poor." 

Ahl You perceive it now, do you? The light comes in through your 
thick heads, does it? Yes, it's I and my brethren is "the poor." We get 
our bread— coarse enough and dry enough it usually is — by filling you 
with spiritual food, and, judging by the congregation now before me, 
it's ugly mouths you have to receive it. We toil not, neither do we spin, 
but if Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed better than we are, 
instead of being clothed in vervain and fine linen, 'tis many a time he'd 
be wearing a threadbare black coat, white on the seams, and out at the 
elbows. It is the opinion of the most learned scholars and Doctors in 
Divinity, as laid down before the Council of Trent, that the translation 
is not sufficiently exact in regard of this text. And they recommend that 
for the words "the poor" we should substitute "the Clergy." Thus cor- 
rected, then the text would read "he who gives to the Clergy, lends to 
the Lord," which, no doubt, is the proper and undiluted Scripture. 

The words of the text are thus settled, and you have heard my 
explanation of it all. Now for the application. Last Thursday was a 
week since the fair of Bartlemy, and I went down there to buy a horse, 
for this is a large parish, and mortification and fretting has puffed me 
up so, that God help me, 'tis little able I am to walk about to answer 
all the sick calls, to say nothing of stations, weddings, and christenings. 
Well, I bought the horse, and it cost me more than I expected, so that 
there I stood without a copper in my pocket after I had paid the 
dealer. It rained cats and dogs, and as I am so poor that I can't afford 
to buy a greatcoat, I got wet to the skin, in less than no time. There 
you were, scores of you, in the public houses, with the windows up, 
that all the world might see you eating and drinking as if it was for a 

The Irish Edge 9 

wager. And there was not one of you who had the grace to ask, "Father 
Prout, have you got a mouth in your face?" And there I might have 
stood in the rain until this blessed hour (that is, supposing it had con- 
tinued raining until now) , if I had not been picked up by Mr. 'Mun 
Roche, of Kildinan, an honest gentleman, and a hospitable man I 
must say, though he is a Protestant. He took me home with him, and 
there, to your eternal disgrace, you villains, I got as full as a tick, and 
'Mun had to send me home in his own carriage — which is an everlast- 
ing shame to all of you, who belong to the true Church. 

Now, I asked, which has carried out the text? You who did not give 
me even a poor tumbler of punch, when I was like a drowned rat at 
Bartlemy, or 'Mun Roche, who took me home and filled me with the 
best of eating and drinking, and sent me to my own house, after that, 
in his own elegant carriage? Who best fulfilled the Scripture? Who lent 
to the Lord, by giving to his poor Clergy? Remember, a time will come 
when I must give a true account of you — and what can I say then? 
Won't I have to hang down my head in shame, on your account? Ton 
my conscience, it would not much surprise me, unless you greatly mend 
your ways, if 'Mun Roche and you won't have to change places on that 
occasion: he sit alongside of me, as a friend who had treated the poor 
Clergy well in this world, and you in a certain place, which I won't 
particularly mention now, except to hint that the little frost or cold 
you'll have in it, but quite the contrary. However, 'tis never too late to 
mend, and I hope that by this day week, it's quite another story I'll 
have to tell of you all. Amen. 

The Parish Priest Reproves and Encourages 
His Flock: A Sermon 

But though Father Hannigan had delivered his regular discourse 
after the first gospel, it was his habit to address a few homely words 
to the people at the conclusion of the Mass upon which we may call 
local and individual topics. He now turned round and began in his 
deep big voice, with "Now, what's this I was going to say to ye?" 

He pressed the forefinger of his left hand against his temple, as if 
trying to recall something that had escaped his memory. "Ay! ay! ay! 
D'ye give up stealing the turf in the name o' God?" 

From Knocknagow, or The Homes of Tipperary, by Charles J. Kickham. pp. 75-78. 
James Duffy & Co., Ltd. Dublin. 1887. ^ 

10 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

"Everyone," he continued after a pause, "must steal turf such 
weather as this that hasn't it of his own. But sure if ye didn't know it 
was wrong, ye wouldn't be telling it to the priest. And yc think it would 
be more disgraceful to beg than to steal it. That's a great mistake. No 
decent man would refuse his neighbour a hamper of turf such weather 
as this. And a poor man is not a beggar for asking a hamper of turf 
such weather as this when he can't get a day's work, and the Easter 
water bottles bursting. Ye may laugh, but Judy Manogue stopped me 
on the road yesterday to know what she ought to do. Her bottle of 
Easter water that she had under her bed was in a lump of ice, and the 
bottle— a big black bottle that often gave some of yc a headache— and 
maybe it wasn't without giving more of ye a heartache— before Judy 
took my advice and gave up that branch of her business: well, the big 
black bottle was split in two with the fair dint of the frost— under the 
poor woman's bed. And the Lord knows no Christian could stand with- 
out a spark of fire to keep the life in him— let alone looking at a house- 
hold of children shivering and shaking, and he able and willing to 
work, and not a stroke of work to be got. But ye all know that stealing 
is bad, and ye ought fitter make your cases known to the priest, and 
maybe something might be done for ye. Pride is a good thing — decent, 
manly pride — and 'twill often keep a man from doing a mean act even 
when he's sorely tempted. Spirit is a good thing. But, take my word for 
it, there's nothing like honesty. And poverty, so long as it's not brought 
on by any fault of his own, need never bring a blush to a man's cheek. 
So, in the name of God, d'ye give up stealing the turf. 

"Father O'Neill is against the beagles. He says 'tis a shame to hear 
the horn sounding, and see ye scampering over ditches and hedges on 
the Lord's Day. Well, I don't know what to say to that. 'Tis the only 
day ye have for diversion of any sort. And as long as ye are sure not 
to lose Mass, I won't say anything against the beagles. The farmers 
tell me they don't mind the loss to them to let their sons keep a dog 
or two. And if ye meet after Mass — mind, I say, after divine service — I 
don't see much harm in it. I'm told, too, that gentlemen of the neigh- 
borhood — that is, such of them as are gentlemen — don't object to It. 
as ye are honorable sportsmen and spare the hares. But then there's the 
hurling. There's a deal of bad blood when ye hurl the two sides of 
the river. If there's any more of the work that was carried on at the 
last match, ye'll be the disgrace of the country, instead of being, as ye 
are, the pride of the barony. 'Tis given up to the Knocknagow boys to 
be spirited and well-conducted as any in the country." 

Father Hannigan turned towards the altar, and Phil Lahy was again 

The Irish Edce 11 

advancing with the holy water, but after taking a pinch of snuff he 
resumed his address. 

"I want ye to keep up the good name ye have. And talking of funerals 

reminds me Of your Conduct at the burying of that poor man ye 

brought to Kilrea the week before last. 'Twas a charitable thing to 
carry him thirteen miles through the teeming rain, and I know ye had 
pains in your shoulders the next morning after him. 'Twas a charitable 
thing to lay his poor old bones alongside of his wife and children, as 
it was his last wish — though he didn't have a chick or child living 
belonging to him. I say that was a charitable, Christian, Irish act — and 
may God reward ye for it. But that was no excuse for the way ye be- 
haved. The parish priest of Kilrea said such a set never came into his 
parish. And Ould Peg Naughton, that keeps the shebeen house at the 
church, declared to myself that, though she is there going on fifty-two 
years, 'twas the drunkenest little funeral she ever laid eyes on. Isn't 
that a nice character ye are earning for yourselves? But I hope now 
you'll remember my words. And now I have one request to ask of ye. 
I want ye to promise that you'll dig the Widow Keating's stubbles for 
her. She hasn't a soul to do a hand's turn for her since her boy lost his 
health. Will ye promise me now that as soon as the weather is fitting 
ye'll dig the Widow Keating's stubbles? 'Tis short 'twill take ye if ye 
all join together." 

There's Always a Good Reason 

The day after my arrival on the Island, Tomas has been fishing all 
the morning over by Beiginis, and comes into the kitchen early in the 
afternoon carrying a large bream. 

"That's a fine fish you have," I say. 

"It's for you, for I thought on the first day of your coming back to 
the Island you should have a good fish for supper." 

I take the fish and lay it down on the table, and begin to thank him 
in my halting Irish. 

"Don't thank me till you've heard all my story," he says. 

"Well," I say, "no story could make any difference in my thanks." 

"Listen then. When I came back from fishing this morning I had 

From The Western Island, or The Great Blasket, by Robin Flower, p. 17. Copy- 
right, 1945, by Oxford University Press, New York, Inc. 

12 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

two bream, one larger and one smaller. The one there is not the larger 
of the two." 

''How comes that?" I say, smelling a jest in the wind. 

"Well, it was this way. I came into my house, and I laid Uic two 
fish down on the table, and I said to myself: 'Now which of these two 
fish shall I give the gentleman from London?' And there came into my 
head the old saying, 'When the Lord God made Heaven and Earth at 
the first, He kept the better of the two for himself.' And where could I 
find a higher example?" 

Mr. Dooley on New Year's Resolutions 

Mr. Hennessy looked out at the rain dripping in Archery Road, and 
sighed, "A-ha, 'tis a bad spell iv weather we're havin'." 

"Faith, it is," said Mr. Dooley, "or else we mind it more thin we did. 
I can't remimber wan day fr'm another. Whin I was young, I nivcr 
thought iv rain or snow, cold or heat. But now th' heat stings an' the' 
cold wrenches me bones; an', if I go out in th' rain with less on me thin 
a ton iv rubber, I'll pay dear f'r it in achin' j'ints, so I will. That's what 
old age means; an' now another year has been put on to what we had 
befure, an' we're expected to be gay. 'Ring out th' old,' says a guy at th' 
Brothers' School. 'Ring out th' old, ring in the new,' he says. 'Ring out 
th' false, ring in th' thrue," says he. It's a pretty sintimint, Hinnissy; 
but how ar-re we goin' to do it? Nawthin'd please me betther thin to 
turn me back on th' wicked an' ingloryous past, rayform me life, an' 
live at peace with th' wurruld to th' end iv me days. But how th' divvle 
can I do it? As th' fellow says. 'Can th' leopard change his spots,' or 
can't he? 

"You know Dorsey, iv coorse, th' crosseyed May-o man that come to 
this counthry about wan day in advance iv a warrant f'r sheep-stealin'? 
Ye know what he done to me, tellin' people I was caught in me cellar 
poorin' wather into a bar'l? Well, last night says I to mesilf, thinkin' 
iv Dorsey, I says: 'I swear that henceforth I'll keep me temper with me 
fellow-men. I'll not let anger or jealousy get th' betther iv me,' I says. 
'I'll lave off all me old feuds; an' if I meet me inimy goin' down th' 
sthreet, I'll go up an' shake him be th' hand, if I'm sure he hasn't a 
brick in th' other hand.' Oh, I was mighty compliminihry to mesilf. 

From Mr. Dooley in Peace and War, by Finley Peter Dunne, pp. 95-99- Copyright, 
1898, by Small, Maynard & Co. Boston. 

The Irish Edge 13 

I set be th' stove dhrinkin' hot wans, an' ivry wan I dhrunk made mc 
more iv a pote. 'Tis th' way with th' stuff. Whin I'm in dhrink, I have 
manny a fine thought; an', if I wasn't too comfortable to ro an' look 
f'r th' ink-bottle, I cud write pomes that'd make Shakespeare an' Mike 
Scanlan think they were wur-rkin' on a dredge. 'Why,' says I, 'carry into 
th' new year th' hathreds iv th' old?' I says. 'Let th' dead past bury its 
dead,' says I. Tur-rn ye'er lamps up to th' blue sky,' I says. (It was 
rainin' like th' diwle, an' th' hour was midnight; but I give no heed to 
that, bein' comfortable with th' hot wans.) An' I wint to th' dure, an', 
whin Mike Duffy come by on number wan hundherd an' five, ringin' 
th' gong iv th' ca-ar, I hollered to him: 'Ring out th' old, ring in th* 
new.' 'Go back into ye'er stall,' he says, 'an' wring ye'ersilf out,' he 
says. 'Ye'er wet through,' he says. 

"Whin I woke up this mornin', th' pothry had all disappeared, an' 
I begun to think th' las' hot wan I took had sometliin' wrong with it. 
Besides, th' lumbago was grippin' me till I cud hardly put wan foot 
befure th' other. But I remimbered me promises to mesilf, and I wint 
out on th' sthreet, intindin' to wish ivry wan a 'Happy New Year,' an' 
hopin' in me hear-rt that th' first wan I wished it to'd tell me to go to 
th' diwle, so I cud hit him in th' eye. I hadn't gone half a block befure 
I spied Dorsey acrost th' sthreet. I picked up a half a brick an' put it 
in me pocket, an' Dorsey done th' same. Thin we wint up to each odier. 
'A Happy New Year,' says I. 'Th' same to you,' says he, 'an manny iv 
thim,' he says. 'Ye have a brick in ye'er hand,' says I. 'I was thinkin' iv 
givin' ye a New Year's gift,' says he. 'Th' same to you, an' manny iv 
thim,' says I, fondlin' me own ammunition. ' 'Tis even all around,' says 
he. 'It is,' says I. 'I was thinkin' las' night I'd give up me gredge again 
ye,' says he. 'I had th' same thought mesilf,' says I. 'But, since I seen 
ye'er face,' he says, 'I've con-eluded that I'd be more comfortable hatin' 
ye thin havin' ye f'r a friend,' says he. 'Ye're a man iv taste,' says I. An' 
we backed away fr'm each other. He's a Tip, an' can throw a stone like 
a rifleman; an', Hinnissy, I'm somethin' iv an amachoor shot with a 
half-brick mesilf. 

"Well, I've been thinkin' it over, an' I've argied it out that life'd not 
be worth livin' if we didn't keep our inimics. I can have all th' frimls 
I need. Anny man can that keeps a liquor sthore. But a rale sthrong 
inimy, specially a May-o inimy, — wan that hates ye ha-ard, an' that 
ye'd take th' coat off yer back to do a bad tur-rn to, — is a luxury that I 
can't go without in me ol' days. Dorsey is th' right sort. I can't go by 
his house without bein' in fear he'll spill th' chimbly down on me 
head; an, whin he passes my place, he walks in th' middle iv th' sdireet. 

H A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

an' crosses himself. I'll swear off on annything but Dorsey. He's a good 
man, an' I despise him. Here's long life to him." 

A Duel with Words 

I was Registrar of the Dublin National Gallery at one time. My 
man came in and said: "Mr. George Moore to see you, sir." "Ah," said 
I to myself, "the famous novelist that everybody talks about and nobody 
reads, and of whom I've never read a word either J" . . . "Show him in/' 
said I. 

In ten more seconds George Moore stepped into my lovely office. 
There were three or four pictures on each of my walls, and a beautiful 
fire in the grate. Moore looked very carefully at all my pictures before 
he looked at me, and said: "Ah, copies, I presume." 

"I think not," I replied, "but you are more of an expert than I am." 
Moore sat down. "You are an expert, ex officio," said he. "Oh. no," I 
answered. "I am merely a very superior official: my Director is Quattro- 
centro and my Board is Byzantine. They are our experts." 

An odd thing happens when two writers meet. Without a word being 
uttered on the subject, each knows in thirty seconds whether the other 
has ever read a line of his work or not. Neither of us had, and we were 
both instantly aware that life is not perfect, but. while I was full of 
patience and hope, Moore was scandalised. 

Still, literature was his subject, and this was so in a deeper sense 
than in any other writer I have ever met. In the way of being dedicated 
to the craft of writing, Moore was that. He lived for the prose way of 
thinking — wine, women and murder — and I am sure that when he was 
asleep he dreamed that he was writing a bigger and better book than 
any he had yet managed to produce. He loved the art of prose; for 
poetry he had the traditional reverence that we all have: but I fancy 
that he had small liking for it. 

Poetry presents a problem to the prose men, for it can exist very 
energetically without character, without humour, it can even get along 
without action, where prose must have all of these. The novelist may 
often think of poetry as almost a complete destitution, or as the stock 
in-trade of a beggarman: "Poetry is nothing written by no one." 

'"What are you working at now, Stephens?" said Moore. 

From a radio broadcast, by James Stephens in 1949. printed in The IrUh Digest, 
April, 1954. pp. 26-28. Dublin. Reprinted by permission of Mrs. James Stephens. 

The Irish Edge 15 

"This morning," I replied, "I translated the County of Mayo." 
"That is my own county," said he. "and so I am interested. But, 
my dear Stephens, that poem has been translated 30 many times al- 
ready, that you are wasting your, ah, talent, yes, perhnp* talent, on a 

job that every literate person in Ireland has done before you." 

"Why. Moore?" said I. 

Here he broke in, "Don't you think, Stephens, that I have come to 
the years in which younger men should address me as Mr. Moore?" 

"Certainly, Mr. Moore," said I — and he smiled a grave, fattish and 
reprobating smile at me. 

"You were going to say," he prompted, turning on me his pale 
fattish face and his sloping, thinnish shoulders, and his air of listening 
to me almost as through a keyhole. 

"Only, sir, that a translation is never completed until it has become 
a piece of original verse in the new tongue." 

"That is an excellent and beautifully impossible definition," said 
Moore. "Perhaps," he went on, "you would like to say the verses to mc. 
How many are there?" he added hastily. 

"Only four," I answered, "and as it is about your own county, sir, 
you should be the first one to hear them." 

"Thank you, Stephens." said he, unnecessarily, for I intended to 
say that poem to someone. So I said the little poem, and he praised it 
highly, mainly I think because I had called him "sir." 

"I must leave you very soon," said he, "for I have a lunch engage- 
ment, but if you ever need literary advice, I hope you will write to me. 
In fact, I beg that you will do so, for I have a proposition to make to 

"I am in need of advice right now, Mr. Moore," said I. "and al- 
though some might think the matter not literary I consider that every- 
thing that has to do with a speech problem has to do with literature." 

Moore agreed. "Psychological problems," said he, "are women and 
religion and English grammar. All other problems are literary. Tell 
me the matter that is confusing you, Stephens." 

"Well, sir," said I, "I have been invited to the first formal dinner 
party of my life." 

"Your first dinner party?" he queried. 

"I have eaten," I explained, "with every kind o£ person and at 
every kind of table, but I have never dined with anybody." 

"At a dinner," said he, "formal or informal, you just cat your 

"Oh, no, Mr. Moore." said I, "the problem has nothing to do with 
mastication and is quite a troublesome one. I shall be sitting at a 

16 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

strange table and on my right hand there will be a lady whom I have 
never seen before and may never see again " 

"Quite," said he. 

"On my left hand." I continued, "there will he another lady w l, gn , 
I've never seen before. In the name of heaven, Mr. Moore. Wliat Shall 
I say to these ladies?" 

"Why," said Moore thoughtfully, "this is a problem that never 
struck me before. It is a very real one," said he. sitting up at me nnd 
at it. If you were an Englishman," he went on. "you could talk a little 

HoT^V VC . V; SUeIy ' y ° U kn ° W ' 3 nUmber of Dirt y Da y* and 
How are You s, and then you could say a few well-chosen words about 

^ng" U tephe n ns.^ e meat ' ** SUbset * uentI y about < he P^ding-pud- 

"Dammit," said I. 

"An Irishman," Moore said, "can always find something to say 
about the cattle, and the crops, the manure, and the . . . No, no," he 
continued energetically, "no manure— ladies think it is very strange 
stuff: they prefer to talk about the theaters, actors, I mean, and hats. I'll 
tell you, talk to the first woman about how pretty her dress is; say that 
you have never seen so lovely a dress in your life. Then turn to the 
other hussy, and say that she is the most beautiful person in the room. 
Admire her rings: don't ask her where she got them: never ask a 
woman where or how she got anything whatever; questions like that 
often lead to divorce proceedings. In short, Stephens, talk to them 
about themselves, and you are pretty safe." 

He enlarged on this matter: "You may talk to them about their 
hair and their eyes and their noses, but," he interrupted hastily, "don't 
say anything whatever about their knees." 

"I will not, Mr. Moore," said I fervently. 

"In especial, Stephens, do not touch their knees under any cir- 

"I will not, Mr. Moore." 

"Restraint at a formal dinner party, Stephen, is absolutely neces- 
sary." ' 

"I quite understand, sir." 

"Moreover, Stephens, women arc strangely gifted creatures in some 
respects, all women have a sense akin to absolute divination about 
their knees." 

"Ah, sir?" I queried. 

"When a woman's knee is touched, Stephens, however delicately 
the lady knows infallibly whether the gentleman is really caressing her 
or whether he is only wiping his greasy fingers on her stocking. But 

The Irish Edge 17 

formal dinner parties are disgusting entertainments anyhow. Goodbye, 

"Goodbye, Mr. Moore," said I fervently, "and thank you very much 

for your help. I shall never forget those ladies' knees." 

Moore smiled at me happily, almost lovingly. "Write to m« abwui 

this dinner party, Stephens." 

"I shall certainly do so, Mr. Moore." 
And that was our first meeting. 

The Difference Between Youth and Age 

... He chanced to lift his eyes from the ground and saw, far away, a 
solitary figure which melted into the folding earth and reappeared 
again in a different place. So peculiar and erratic were the movements 
of this figure that the Philosopher had great difficulty in following it, 
and, indeed, would have been unable to follow, but that the other 
chanced in his direction. When it came nearer he saw it was a 
young boy, who was dancing hither and thither in any and every di- 
rection. A bushy mound hid him for an instant, and the next they 
were standing face to face staring at each other. After a moment's 
silence the boy, who was about twelve years of age, and as beautiful as 
the morning, saluted the Philosopher. 

"Have you lost your way, sir?" said he. 

"All paths," the Philosopher replied, "are on the earth, and so one 
can never be lost — but I have lost my dinner." 

The boy commenced to laugh. 

"What are you laughing at, my son?" said the Philosopher. 

"Because," he replied, "I am bringing you your dinner. I wondered 
what sent me out in this direction, for I generally go more to the cast." 

"Have you got my dinner?" said the Philosopher anxiously. 

"I have," said the boy: "I ate my own dinner at home, and I put 
your dinner in my pocket. I thought," he explained, "that I might be 
hungry if I went far away." 

"The gods directed you," said the Philosopher. 

"They often do," said the boy, and he pulled a small parcel from 
his pocket. 

From The Crock of Gold, by Jame» Stephens, pp. 176-182. Copyright, 1912, by The 
Macmillan Co. New York. 

18 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

The Philosopher instantly sat down, and the boy handed him the 
parcel. He opened this and found bread and cheese. 

"It's a good dinner," said he, and commenced to eat. "Would you 
not like a piece also, my son?" 

"I would like a little piece," said the boy, and he sal down before 
the Philosopher, and they ate together happily. 

When t&ey had finished the Philosopher praised the gods, and then 
said, more to himself than to the boy: 

"If I had a little drink of water I would want nothing else." 

"There is a stream four paces from here," said his companion. "I 
will get some water in my cap," and he leaped away. 

In a few moments he came back holding his cap tenderly, and the 
Philosopher took this and drank the water. 

"I want nothing more in the world," said he, "except to talk with 
you. The sun is shining, the wind is pleasant and the grass is soft. Sit 
down beside me again for a little time." 

So the boy sat down, and the Philosopher lit his pipe. 

"Do you live far from here?" said he. 

"Not far," said the boy. "You could see my mother's house from this 
place if you were as tall as a tree, and even from the ground you can 
see a shape of smoke yonder that floats over our cottage." 

The Philosopher looked but could see nothing. 

"My eyes are not as good as yours are," said he, "because I am eettinK 

"What does it feel like to be old?" said the boy. 

"It feels stiff like," said the Philosopher. 

"Is that all?" said the boy. 

"I don't know," the Philosopher replied after a few moments' silence. 
"Can you tell me what it looks like to be young?" 

"Why not?" said the boy, and then a slight look of perplexity crossed 
his face, and he continued, "I don't think I can." 

"Young people," said the Philosopher, "do not know what age is, 
and old people forget what youth was. When you begin to grow old 
always think deeply of your youth, for an old man without memories 
is a wasted life, and nothing is worth remembering but our childhood. 
I will tell you some of the differences between being old and young, 
and then you can ask me questions, and so we will get at both sides of 
the matter. First, an old man gets tired quicker than a boy." 

The boy thought for a moment, and then replied: 

"That is not a great difference, for a boy does get very tired." 

The Philosopher continued: 

"An old man does not want to eat as often as a boy." 

The Irish Edge 19 

"That is not a great difference either," the boy replied, "for they 
both do eat. Tell me the big difference." 

"I do not know it, my son; but I have always thought there was .-> hig 
difference. Perhaps it is that an old man has memories of thing* whirh 
a boy cannot even guess at." 

"But they both have memories," said the boy, laughing, "and SO it 
is not a big difference." 

"That is true," said the Philosopher. "Maybe there is not so much 
difference after all. Tell me things you do, and we will see if I can do 
them also." 

"But I don't know what I do," he replied. 

"You must know the things you do," said the Philosopher, "but you 
may not understand how to put them in order. The great trouble about 
any kind of examination is to know where to begin, but there are 
always two places in everything with which we can commence — they 
are the beginning and the end. From either of these points a view may 
be had which comprehends the entire period. So we will begin with 
the things you did this morning." 

"I am satisfied with that," said the boy. 
The Philosopher then continued: 

"When you awakened this morning and went out of the house what 
was the first thing you did?" 
The boy thought — 

"I went out, then I picked up a stone and threw it into the field as 
far as I could." 

"What then?" asked the Philosopher. 

"Then I ran after the stone to see could I catch up on it before it 
hit the ground." 

"Yes," said the Philosopher. 

"I ran so fast that I tumbled over myself into the grass." 
"What did you do after that?" 

"I lay where I fell and plucked handfuls of the grass with both hands 
and threw them on my back." 
"Did you get up then?" 

"No, I pressed my face into the grass and shouted a lot of times with 
my mouth against the ground, and then I sat up and did not move for 
a long time." 

"Were you thinking?" said the Philosopher. 

"No, I was not thinking or doing anything." 

"Why did you do all these things?" said the Philosopher. 

"For no reason at all," said the boy. 

"That," said the Philosopher triumphantly, "is the difference be- 

20 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

tween age and youth. Boys do things for no reason, and old people do 
not. I wonder do we get old because we do things by reason instead of 

"I don't know," said the boy, "everything gets old. . . ." 

How O'Connell Won the Championship of Billingsgate 

There was at that time in Dublin, a certain woman, Biddy 
Moriarty, who had a huckster's stall on one of the quays nearly oppo- 
site the Four Courts. She was a virago of the first order, very able with 
her fist, and still more formidable with her tongue. From one end o£ 
Dublin to the other, she was notorious for her powers of abuse, and 
even in the provinces Mrs. Moriarty's language had passed into cur- 
rency. The dictionary of Dublin slang had been considerably enlarged 
by her, and her voluble impudence had almost become proverbial. 
Some of O'Connell's friends, however, thought that he could beat her 
at the use of her own weapons. Of this, however, he had some doubts 
himself, when he listened once or twice to some minor specimens of her 
Billingsgate. It was mooted once where the young Kerry barrister 
could encounter her, and some one of the company rather too freely 
ridiculed the idea of his being able to meet the famous Madame 
Moriarty. O'Connell never liked the idea of being put down, and he 
professed his readiness to encounter her, and even backed himself for 
the match. Bets were offered and taken and it was decided that the 
matter should come off at once. 

The party adjourned to the huckster's stall, and there was the owner 
herself, superintending the sale of her small wares — a few loungers and 
ragged idlers were hanging around her stall, for Biddy was a character 
and in her way was one of the sights of Dublin. O'Connell commenced 
the attack. 

"What's the price of this walking-stick, Mrs. What's-your-name?" 

"Moriarty, sir, is my name, and a good one it is; and what have you 
to say agen it? One-and-sixpence 's the price of the stick. Troth, it's 
chape as dirt, so it is." 

"One-and-sixpence for a walking stick; whewl why, you are not 
better than an impostor, to ask eighteen pence for what cost you two 

Reprinted from Madden's Revelations of Ireland in Irish Wit and Wisdom, pp. 
49-52. P. M. Haverty, Publishers. New York. 1877. 

The Irish Edge 21 

"Two pence, your grandmother! Do you mane to say it's chating the 
people I am? Impostor, indeed!" 
"I protest as I am a gentleman . . ." 

"Jintleman! Jintleman! The likes of you a jintleman! WlQha. by 
gor, that bangs Banagher. Why, you potato-faced pippin-sneezer, when 
did a Madagascar monkey like you pick up enough of common Chris- 
tian dacency to hide your Kerry brogue?" 

"Easy now, easy now," said O'Connell with imperturbable good 
humour, "don't choke yourself with fine language, you whiskey-drink- 
ing parallelogram." 

"What's that you call me, you murderin' villain?" roared Mrs. 

"I call you," answered O'Connell, "a parellelogram; and a Dublin 
judge and jury will say it's no libel to call you so." 

"Oh, tare-an'-ouns! Oh, Holy Saint Bridget! that an honest woman 
like me should be called a parrybellygrum to her face. I'm none of your 
parrybellygrums, you rascally gallows-bird; yon cowardly, sneakin'. 
plate-liekin' blaguard!" 

"Oh, not you, indeed! Why, I suppose you'll deny that you keep a 

hypotenuse in your house." 

"It's a lie for you. I never had such a thing. . . ." 

"Why sure all your neighbours know very well that you keep not 
only a hypotenuse, but that you have two diameters locked up in your 
garret, and that you go out to walk with them every Sunday, you 
heartless old heptagon." 

"Oh, hear that, ye saints in glory! Oh, there's bad language from a 
fellow that wants to pass for a jintleman. May the d.vil fly away with 
you, you micher from Munster, and make eelery-sauce of your rotten 
limbs, you mealy-mouthed tub of guts." 

"Ah, you can't deny the eharge, you miserable sub-multiple of a 

duplicate ratio." ... . . . *.._ 

"Go, rinse your mouth in the Liffey, you nasty t.ckle-pincher, after 
all the bad words you speak, it ought to be dirtier than your faec, you 
dirty chicken of Beelzebub." 

"Rinse your own mouth, you wieked-minded old polygon-to the 
deuce I piteh you, you blustering intersection of a superficies ^ 

"You saucy tinker's apprentice, if you don't cease your jaw, 1 11 . . . 
But here she gasped for breath, unable to hawk up more words. 

" Wh le I have a tongue, I'll abuse you, you most '""-table pen 
phery. Look at her, boysl There she stands-a convicted perpendieular 
iTpmieoats! There's contamination in her circumference, and she 
trembles with guilt down to the extremities of her eorollanes. Ah. 

22 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

you're found out, you rcctilinealantecedent, and equiangular old hag! 
'Tis with the devil you will fly away, you porter-swiping similitude of 
the bisection of a vortex!" 

Overwhelmed with this torrent of language, Mrs. Jvforiarty was 
silenced. Catching up a saucepan, she was aiming at O'Conncll's head, 
when he made a timely retreat. 

"You've won your wager, O'Connell, here's your bet," said the ones 
who proposed the contest. 

A Story about King Solomon 

"The first person who comes to me with news of my mother's death, 
I will take his head off," quoth Solomon. 

A brother of his, a fool, said that he himself would come with news 
to Solomon of his mother's death. 

All went well until she died. 

The brother came with a bag of shore-sand and began throwing it 
against the window from the outside. 

"Who is that?" inquired Solomon. 

"You brother, the amadan!" 

"That is February corn or shore-sand you have," said Solomon. 
"Have you any other news?" 

"The trees are gone!" 

"There must have been a great wind. Have you any news except 
that?" 7 K 

"Yes, the mill that ground the very first corn for you was broken 
last night." 

"That is the same as saying my mother is dead," replied Solomon. 

"The death of your mother is in your own mouth: you can kill 
yourself now, or not mind it," said the fool, as he departed. 

Enri O Muirgheasa, in Btaloideas, Journal of the Folklore of Ireland Society. 
Dublin. 1927. A siorv told by Thomas Corrigan, the last of the Farnie shanachies. 

The Irish Edge 23 

Mr. Dooley on Criminals 

"Lord bless my sowl," said Mr. Dooley, "childhcr is a gr-reat ris- 
ponsibility, — a gr-reat risponsibility. Whin I think iv it, I praise th' 
saints I niver was married, though I had opporchunities enough whin 
I was a young man; an' even now I have to wear rac hat low whin I 
go down be Cologne Sthreet on account iv th' Widow Grogan. Jawn, 
that woman'll take me dead or alive. I wake up in a col' chill in th' 
middle iv th' night, dhreamin' iv her havin' mc in her clutches. 

"But that's not here or there, avick. I was r-readfn' in th' pa-apers 
iv a lad be th' name iv Scanlan bein' sint down th' short r-road f'r near 
a lifetime; an' I minded th' first time I iver see him. — a bit iv a curly- 
haired boy that played tag around me place, an' 'd sing 'Blest Saint 
Joseph' with a smile on his face like an angel's. Who'll tell what makes 
wan man a thief an' another man a saint? I dinnaw. This here boy's 
father wurrked fr'm morn till night in th' mills, was at early mass 
Sundah momin' befure th' alkalis lit th' candles, an' niver knowed a 
month whin he failed his jooty. An' his mother was a sweet-faced little 
woman, though fr'm th' County Kerry, that nursed th' sick an' waked 
th' dead, an' niver had a hard thought in her simple mind f'r anny 
iv Gawd's creatures. Poor sowl, she's dead now. May she rest in pcacel 

"He didn't git th' shtreak fr'm his father or fr'm his mother. His 
brothers an' sisters was as fine a lot as ivcr lived. But this la-ad Petey 
Scanlan growed up fr'm bein' a curly-haired angel f'r to be th' toughest 
villyun in th' r-road. What was it at all, at all? Sometimes I think 
they'se poison in th' life iv a big city. Th' flowers won't grow here no 
more thin they wud in a tannery, an' th' bur-rds have no song; an' th' 
childher iv dacint men an' women come up hard in th' mouth an' with 
their hands raised again their kind. 

"Th' la-ad was th' scoorge iv th' polis. He was as quick as a cat an' 
as fierce as a tiger, an' I well raymimber him havin' laid out big Kelly 
that used to thravel this post, — 'Whistlin' Kelly that kep' us awake 
with imitations iv a mockin' bur-rd, — I well raymimber him scuttlin* 
up th' alley with a score iv polismin laborin' afther him, thryin' f'r .-» 
shot at him as he wint around th' bar-rns or undher th' thrucks. He 
slep' in th' coalsheds afther that until th' poor ol' man cud square it 
with th' loot. But, whin he come out, ye cud see how his face had 

From Mr. Dooley in Peace and War, by Finley Peier Dunne, pp. 124-129. Copy- 
right, 1898, by Small, Maynard and Co. Boston. 

24 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

hardened an' his ways changed. He was as silent as an animal, with a 
sideways manner that watched ivrything. Right here in this place I 
seen him stand f'r a quarther iv an' hour, not seemin' to hear a dhrunk 
man abusin' him, an' thin lep out like a snake. We had to pry him 

"Th' ol' folks done th' best they cud with him. They hauled him out 
iv station an' jail an' bridewell. Wanst in a long while they'd dhrag 
him off to church with his head down: that was always afther he'd 
been sloughed up f'r wan thing or another. Between times th' polls 
give him his own side iv th' sthreet, an' on'y took him whin his back 
was tur-rned. Thin he'd go in the wagon with a mountain iv thim on 
top iv him, swayin' an' swearin' an' sthrikin' each other in their hurry 
to put him to sleep with their clubs. 

"I mind well th' time he was first took to be settled f'r good. I heerd 
a noise in th' ya-ard, an' thin he come through th' place with his face 
dead gray an' his lips just a turn grayer. 'Where ar-re ye goin', Petey?' 
says I. 'I was jus' takin' a short cut home,' he says. In three minyits ill' 
r-road was full iv polismin. They'd been a robbery down in Halsted 
Sthreet. A man that had a grocery sthore was stuck up. an' whin he 
fought was clubbed near to death: an' they'd r-run Scanlan through 
th' alleys to his father's house. That was as far as they'd go. They was 
enough iv thim to've kicked down th' little cottage with their heavy 
boots, but they knew he was standin' behind th" dure with ill* big gun 
in his hand; an', though they was manny a good lad there, they was 
none that cared f'r that short odds. 

"They talked an' palavered outside, an' telephoned th' chief iv polis, 
an' more pathrol wagons come up. Some was f'r settin' fire to th' 
buildin', but no wan moved ahead. Thin th' fr-ront dure opened, an* 
who shud come out but th' little mother. She was thin an' pale, an' 
she had her apron in her hands, pluckin' at it. 'Gintlemin,' she says, 
'what is it ye want iv me?' she says. 'Liftinant Cassidy,' she says, ' 'Tis 
sthrange f'r ye that I've knowed so long to make scandal iv me befure 
me neighbors,' she says. 'Mrs. Scanlan,' says he, 'we want th' boy. I'm 
sorry, ma'am, but he's mixed up in a bad scrape, an' we must have 
him,' he says. She made a curtsy to thim, an' wint indures. 'Twas less 
than a minyit befure she come out, clingin' to th' la-ad's ar-rm. 'He'll 
go,' she says. 'Thanks be, though he's wild, they'se no crime on his 
head. Is there, dear?' 'No,' says he, like th' game kid he is. Wan iv th' 
polismin stharted to take hold iv him, but th' la'ad pushed him back; 
an' he wint to th' wagon on his mother's ar-rm." 

"And was he really innocent?" Mr. McKenna asked. 

"No," said Mr. Dooley. "But she niver knowed it. Th' ol' man come 

The Irish Edge 25 

home an' found her: she was settin' in a big chair with her apron in 
her hands and th' picture iv th' la-ad in her lap." 

How Two Irish Emissaries Came to a British Prime 
Minister Who Was Also a Fellow-Celt 

"What happened?" I asked. 

Harry, with his love of the dramatic, re-enacted the scene. 

"We arrived at Gairloch, having driven sixty miles in an open car, 
perished. I said to Joe, 'If he asks me to take a drink, I'll be hard put 
to it to keep the promise I made to myself.' Outside the house was a 
Daily Mail man who asked us if we were from Ireland. When I said, 
'Yes,' he said, 'He'll give you two republics today. He's after catching 
a ten-pound salmon.' Just then Lloyd Georgp came around a corner 

of the house, a lively little man with pink cheeks like a baby, clear 
blue eyes and venerable flowing soft white hair. He literally ran to 
us, crying, 'Are you the boys from Ireland?" We said we were ami he 
shook our hands warm-heartedly and impulsively. 'Wait till I show 
you the salmon I caught.' he said. He ran off and returned holding 
the salmon aloft. 'Isn't it grand?' he cried. He handed the salmon 
to someone standing by and ushered us into a room. 'Have a tlrink,' 
he said. 'I have some good Irish whiskey.' No, we weren't drinking. 
'Sherry?' No, no sherry either. 'As you will. Sit down and make your- 
selves at home. You know I'm always glad to meet an Irishman. I know 
where I am with them, being a Celt myself. I can never feel the same 
with these cold-hearted Saxons.' He talked for a while on the superi- 
ority of the Celtic character over that of the Anglo-Saxon and then 
turned to us gleefully, like a boy expecting a new toy. 

"Well, I hope you've got good news for me.' 

"Joe gave him the letter and he began to read it. His face grew 
serious as he ran down the page. Still reading the letter, he sat down 
frowning. Then he collapsed. 

" 'My God!' he groaned. 'My Godl He can't mean this.' He glanced 
at the letter again and put his hand wearily to his head. 'After all I 
said to him he does this to me. You must alter this letter, boys.' Joe 

From Allegiance, by Robert Brennan. pp. 316-319. Browne & Nolan. Dublin. 1950. 
Reprinted by permission of the author. As related by Harry Boland to Robert 

26 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

explained that his instructions were not to interpret the contents of 
the letter. Lloyd George sat for a while as if dazed and I began to pity 
him. 'A chance missed,' he said and he repeated this three or four 
times. 'A wonderful chance missed.' He was very sad. 'Here we had 
a unique opportunity. I was at the head of a coalition government 
with the Tories in the leash. I could have given de Valera all the 
realities he wanted, an Ireland with its own Gaelic system of educa- 
tion, its own army and police force, its own flag, its own anthem, the 
wherewithal to work out its own destiny as a free and independent 
Gaelic nation, and this man spurns it all for a phrase. I asked him 
not to use that phrase— a sovereign nation— which means nothing at 
all if you do not have the essentials. He could have had everything 
but the name, and he throws it away. He throws me, too, on the Scrap- 
heap. Today I was the Prime Minister of the strongest government 
Britain has had for generations. Tomorrow, when this letter sees the 
light of day, I will no longer be Prime Minister but merely a country 
solicitor.' He was pacing up and down, speaking more to himself than 
to us, the picture of a man in a desperate fix. 

' 'What's the alternative?' he went on. 'I resign and let loose the 
dogs of war in Ireland. No. let the Wilsons, the Birkenheads. and the 
Churchills have their way. They boast they'll make Ireland a desert 
and who's going to stop them? Not de Valeral Not me! My power's at 
an end.' 

"All the time we were getting more and more miserable. Lloyd 

George turned to us. 

" 'Could you not appeal to him to alter this letter?' 

" 'It would be no use,' Joe said. 'The Dail is meeting today to 

sanction it.' 

"Lloyd George, who had sat down, jumped to his feet excitedly. 
'That must be stopped,' he cried. 'That must be stopped at all costs. 
You must telephone to him. There is too much at stake in this to have 
it lost over any pettifogging. We can save the day for Ireland and 
Britain both. We can do it, but that letter must be altered. Look, I'll 
tell you what I'll do. I'll take the attitude I have not read this letter 
you telephone to de Valera telling him to alter it. Get back there and 
tell him the situation. He must see it. He must see it!' 

"We were doubtful, and he said, 'You want to discuss this alone. 
Very well, I'll go. Ring that bell when you want me!' He went off and 
left us and there we were with the destiny of a nation in our hands 
and we had only to ring the bell for the Prime Minister to save it. 
We decided to telephone Dublin and report what he had said, and 

The Irish Edge 27 

we rang the bell. When he came in he was all smiles and encourage- 

" 'Send that message,' he said, 'and believe me, boys, we'll save the 

day for Ireland.' 

"So that's how it happened," concluded Harry. "Is Dcv raging?" 

"Well, he's knocked about," I said. "He thought you were bringing 
back the letter." 

"No damn fear," said Joe. 

In Blackrock, Harry and I invaded Dev's bedroom. He was asleep, 
but woke up as we entered. 

"The message was bungled," said Harry. 

Dev glanced at his dejected countenance. 

"Don't worry," he said kindly. 

"If you knew what he said," began Harry, and Dev stopped him. 

"I know," he said, "he told you he was a Celt, he wanted us to have 
a free Gaelic civilization. He was holding back the British bulldog 
from destroying us. He said all that to me. He said that if he accepted 
my terms, he would no longer be Prime Minister, and I said if 1 ac- 
cepted less, I would no longer be President of the Irish Republic." 

"If he didn't mean what he said," said Harry, "he must he the 
greatest actor that was ever born." 

"Of course he is," said Dev. "After all, the man who beat Clcmcnceau 
and Wilson and Orlando is no joke. All right, Harry. There's no harm 
done. Go and get your breakfast." 

Two of a Kind 

The individual spoken of drew a chair to the fire, scowling at Barney 
as if he considered him an intruder. It could be seen at a glance that 
Dan Brit was not a model of sobriety. After eyeing Barney in silence 
for a minute, he was turning to the girl to order a pint of porter, 
when he looked again at him and hesitated. In fact, Dan Brit was 
debating with himself whether if he ventured to ask Barney to take 
a drink, Barney was the sort of a person to say afterwards, "Let us 
have another." And in case he was the man to say so, Dan Brit had 
his mind made up to call back the girl just as she was going for two 
pints of porter, saying, "Kitty, I'll take a glass of the old malt; I'm not 

From Knocknagow, or The Homes of Tipperary, by Charles J. Kickham, pp. 189- 
191. James Duffy & Co., Ltd. Dublin. 1887. 

28 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

very well today." And so Dan Brit would have a glass of whiskey, 
price threepence, in exchange for a pint of porter, price three-half' 
pence; which, in a social and friendly way, and, in the spirit of a 
"good fellow" he was thinking of pressing Barney to accept at his hand. 
And while Dan Brit was pondering the risks to be run in this mat- 
ter, his eye fell upon Barney's foot on the hob, which object seemed 
to fascinate Dan Brit and drive all other subjects out of his thoughts 
for the time being. 

"The divil so ugly a foot as that," said Dan Brit solemnly, "I ever 
see, anyhow." 

"There's an uglier one in the house," rejoined Barney. 
"No, not in Ireland," returned Dan. "Nor in Europe, Asia, Africa 
or America." 

**Will you bet a quart of porter?" said Barney. 

"That there's not an uglier foot in the house?" exclaimed Dan, star- 
ing in astonishment at him. 

kZ^' s f idB f ne y u with spirit, "I'll wager a quart of porter, and let 
Knty be the judge, that there's an uglier foot in the house." 

"Done!" exclaimed Dan Brit, who grasped the certainty of getting 
a drink without paying for it. "But will you stake the money?" 

"Ay, will I," said Barney, suiting the action to the word, and slap- 
ping down the coppers on the chair near him. 

"Take the money, Kitty," said Dan Brit, "an' decide the bet " 

"What is the bet?" Kitty asked. 

It was explained to her; and Kitty shook her head sorrowfully, and 
told Barney he was always a fool. 

"Stake the money yourself," said Barney. And Dan did so. 
Come, give me back that change," said Dan, "an* bring the drink. 
The bet is mine." 

"Wait a bit," returned Barney. "Kitty, give us a peep at your own." 
What impudence you have!" exclaimed Kitty indignantly "Who 
dare say a word agin them. I'd like to know." And Kitty exhibited a 
pair of very presentable feet. 

,J' BeS ^\ KiUy '" L Said Bamey with a & in > " if I was dependin' on 
tnem, I d lose my bet." 

"An' do you mane to say you haven't lost it?" Dan asked. "Run 
Kitty, for the porther." 

"Ay, will she; but 'tisn't my money '11 pay for it." 

"Didn't you bet there was an uglier foot in the house than that?" 

And Dan Brit pointed to the foot on the hob. 

"I did." 

"An' where is it?" 

The Irish Edce 29 

Barney slowly and deliberately drew his other foot from under the 
chair, and held it up to view. 

"Here's your money, Barney," exclaimed Kitty, in an ecstasy or de- 
light. "You won the bet; I'll go for the porter," 

Dan Brit's jaw fell down as he stared with open mouth at llarn«y. 
And after swallowing his share of the porter, he walked away With an 
expression of countenance which made Kitty observe that "wan'd 
think 'twas a physic o' salts he was afther swallyin'." 

Irish Justice 

it was an abduction case, the offense being of a purely technical 
character. Having listened patiently to the evidence, the judge, Lord 
Morris, addressing the Court, said, "I am compelled to direct you to 
find a verdict of guilty in this case, but you will easily see that I think 
it a trifling thing which I regard as quite unfit to oixupy my time. It 
is more valuable than yours— at any rate it is much better paid for. 
Find, therefore, the prisoner guilty of abduction, which rests, mind 
ye, on four points— the father was not averse, the mother was not 
opposed, the girl was willing, and the boy conveynicnt." The judge 
sentenced him to remain in the dock until the rising of the Court. 
Hardly had he delivered sentence when, turning to the High Sheriff, 
Lord Morris said, "Let us go," and, looking at the prisoner, "Marry 
the girl at once, and God bless ye both." 

How the Farmer Got Free Pasturage from 
the Astronomer 

Sir William Rowan Hamilton, the discoverer of the calculus of 
quaternions, as Astronomer Royal had tenure of some acres of grass- 
land round Dunsink Observatory. To provide milk for his household 
he put a cow to graze it. In due season the cow's yield lessened. The 
astronomer consulted a near-by farmer about the decrease. "Why, your 
cow is just pining away through loneliness," the farmer told him. 

From "Obituary of Lord Morris of Killanin," in The Gael, October, 1901. 
p. 321. New York. 

By the editor from oral tradition. 

30 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

"What should I do about it?" "Put more cows to graze with her. But 
leave that to me," said the farmer, "I have some extra cows I can put 
with her." "How much will you charge for that?" "Well, seeing it is 
you, Sir William. I'll loan you my cows without any charge " Very 
much impressed with the good fellowship of forincra, die astronomer 
went back to his observatory. 

Queen Victoria's After-Dinner Speech 

As overheard and cut into lengths of poetry by Jamesy Murphy, 
deputy assistant waiter at the Viceregal Lodge. 

Me loving subjects, sez she 

Here's my best respects, sez she. 

And I'm proud this day, sez she, 

Of the illigant way, sez she, 

You gave me the hand, sez she 

Whin I came to land, sez she. 

There was some people said, sez she. 

That I was greatly in dread, sez she 

I'd be murthered or shot, sez she, 

As like as not, sez she, 

But 'tis mighty clear, sez she 

'Tis not over here, sez she, 

I've cause to fear, sez she. 

'Tis them Belgiums, sez she, 

That's throwin' bombs, sez she, 

And scarin' the life, sez she, 

Out o' me son and the wife, sez she. 

But in these parts, sez she, 

They've warrum hearts, sez she, 

Barrin' Anna Parnell, sez she. 

I dunno, Earl, sez she 

What's come to the girl, sez she, 

An' that other wan, sez she, 

That Maud Gonne, sez she, 

Dressin' in black, sez she, 

To welcome me back, sez she. 

From Prose Poems and Parodies of Percy French, edited by his sister, Mrs. De 
Burgh Daly, pp. 55-57. The Talbot Press. Dublin. 1929. 

The Irish Edge SI 

Though I don't care, sez she 
What they wear, sez she, 
An' all that gammon, sez she, 
About mc bringin' famine, act ohc. 
Now Maud 'ill write, sez she, 

That I brought the blight, sez she, 
Or altered the saysons, sez she 
For some private raysons, sez she. 
An' I think there's a slate, sez she 
Off Willie Yeats, sez she. 
He should be at home, sez she, 
French polishin' a pome, sez she, 
An' not writin letters, sez she, 
About his betters, sez she, 
Paradin' me crimes, sez she 
In the Irish Times, sez she, 
But what does it matter? sez she 
This magpie chatter, sez she, 
When that welcomin' roar, sez she, 
Came up from the shore, sez she, 
Right over the foam, sez she, 
'Twas like comin' home, sez she, 
An' me heart fairly glowed, sez she. 
Along the Rock Road, sez she, 

To Buttherstown, sez she, 

Till I came to the ridge, sez she, 

Of the Leeson Street Bridge, sez she, 

An' I was welcomed in style, acz ahc 

By the beautiful smile, sez she, 

Of me Lord Mayor Pile, sez she. 

Faith, if I'd done right, sez she, 

I'd make him a knight, sez she. 

Now pass the jug, sez she. 

An' fill up each mug, sez she, 

Till I give you a toast, sez she, 

At which you may boast, sez she. 

I've a power o' sons, sez she, 

All sorts of ones, sez she, 

Some quiet as cows, sez she, 

Some always in rows, sez she. 

An' the one gives most trouble, sez she. 

The mother loves double, sez she. 

32 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

How Aristotle Outwitted His Wife 

It is said that Aristotle was the most learned and knowledge.-^!* 
man of his time. He had the skill to solve every problem. He knew 
many things that no one else did. Therefore his name had great fame 
and renown. But for all his cleverness he failed to cure one thing that 
happened to him, and that was love. He was in love with a young lady 
and he could not get any cure for his love but to marry the woman. 
He was not too long married before his wife noticed that he had much 
greater fame than she had. Jealousy and envy of her husband seized 
her. for she desired to get for herself the knowledge and learning of 

One day she came to him and spoke softly and gently to him. "We 
gave each other our love," she said, "when we were young, and now 
that we are married I want our love to be as it was, and it will not 
so be henceforth unless I get what I want." 

Aristotle spoke to her and asked her what was troubling her. 
'Tis this," she said. "I will not spend another day with you as 
your wife unless I get from you your knowledge and learning." 

"That is a thing I cannot give you, good woman," said Aristotle. 
"For it would be death to myself." 

"If I do not get it by favor," she said, "I will get it by force." And 
she fell into a rage and a passion against him. 

Aristotle waited awhile in meditation. He said in his own mind 
that no one had ever overcome a furious woman. Finally he spoke to 

"I am of a mind to give you my knowledge, but it will take me a day 
and a night to tell it to you." Joy and jubilation entered her heart and 
she was quieted. 

"Bring here a gray stone," said Aristotle, "and set it down here in 
my presence." She brought the stone and set it down before him. 

"Now, good woman," said he, "you must sit on the stone with your 
skin touching it." 

She was nothing loath. She sat down on the stone without anything 
between it and her. Then Aristotle began to tell her and she to write. 
But she was not long sitting on the stone when she complained of 
the cold going through her. 

,«S» 0b ! n ^! 0WCr - '" Bialo{de < u - Journal of the Folklore of Ireland Society. Dublin. 
1929. A folk tale from the Blasket Islands. 

The Irish Edge 35 

"Never mind that," said Aristotle. "You must suffer to get the 
knowledge from me." 

He did not move from the chair in which he sat but kept oil telling 
and she writing. But she had not written much when the pen fell from 
her hand. 

"I am dying," she said. 

"You are not indeed," said Aristotle. "Continue a while; you have 
not yet all the knowledge." 

But if she did, she had not written all the learning and the knowl- 
edge when her soul departed from her on the stone. 

"So," said Aristotle, "all your knowledge is set aside, for if you Had 
the victory over me I would not have lived." 

Irish Bulls: Definition 

Blunders in speech used to be called "Irish bulls." A lady seated 
beside the Provost of Dublin University said, "Dr. Mahaffy. would 
you tell me what is the difference between an Irish bull and another 
bull?" "Madam," said Dr. Mahaffy, "an Irish bull is pregnant." 

Irish Bulls: Example 

In a debate in the Irish House of Commons, Sir Boyle Roaclie de- 
clared, "The profligacy of the age is such that wc see little children not 
able to walk or talk running about the streets and curoing their Maker." 

Brendan Behan: Master of the Irish Edge 

The first time I encountered Brendan Behan he tried to insult me. 
The occasion was my appearance at a relative's house on the day of a 
funeral. His grandmother-in-law, Blanaid Salkeld, a poet and a person 
whom I liked very much, had died, and I had come to offer my con- 
dolence. I hadn't been at the funeral because I had had influenza and 

By the editor from oral tradition. 


By the editor. 

34 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

the day was rainy. I was talking with Cecil Salkeld, his father-in-law, 
when Brendan, with other members of the family, came in. "Why 
weren't you at the funeral?" he demanded. I explained. "She liked you, 
but why the Hell she liked you I never could make out." He had a lxn. 
tie of champagne, and he offered me a glass. Now, I don't like drinking 
champagne at funerals. I made an excuse. "I don't drink in the morn- 
ings." He was at a loss as to what further uncomplimentary things he 
could say to me, but when he had taken his glass he remembered some- 
thing that made me dislikable to him. There had been an interview with 
me on the radio, and I had mentioned I was born in a workhouse. To 
take away the romantic significance that might be attached to such a na- 
tivity, I added that my father had been master of the workhouse at the 
time. "So you're the son of the master," prodded Brendan, and then 
harangued me about my antiproletarian bias and my snobbishness. His 
wife and his sister-in-law, the actress Cecelia Salkeld, protested: my re- 
mark hadn't any social significance, they maintained. When Brendan 
was trying to recall something else that would shame me. I said, "I'm 
glad that your plays are having a success." This was the cue that gave 
him the punch line: "They're better than your lousy plays, anyway." 

But Brendan didn't have anything against me. really. One night, a 
week after this encounter, I was standing at the corner of Dawson Street 
waiting for a bus when he and Mrs. Behan came along at the other side 
of the street. Evidently, seeing me, she nudged him; they came over to 
me and we greeted each other. "Come and have a drink," he said. I told 
him I didn't drink at night, rounding off my remark that I didn't drink 
in the morning. He wasn't annoyed, and I took the opportunity of 
telling him that I had seen two poems of his, written in Irish, that I 
admired, one about Oscar Wilde's tomb in Paris, and the other about 
the Blasket Islands. They were different from the conventional Gaelic 
poetry. I've forgotten how the scene ended, but I know there were no 
hard feelings either side. 

Our next encounter was in front of Trinity College. He was standing 
there with a group of Indonesian students around him; they were after 
him for autographs. As I stood to get a word with him he said to the 
seekers, "Why don't you ask him for an autograph? He's more famous 
than I am." Very handsome of Brendan. But the Indonesians did not 
know me and didn't want to know me, and when I had a few words 
with Brendan I went on. 

We came to meet in pubs, where I listened to his extraordinary dis- 
course or heard him sing ballads. Once his father joined us. He was one 
of those men who gave a character to Dublin, the artisans from the 
tenements (he was a house painter) who know poetry, stand up for their 

The Irish Edge 35 

Nationalist opinions, and regard themselves as the truest type of Irish- 
men. When I mentioned to him jokingly that my acquaintance with 
Brendan began by his trying to insult me. he was shocked. Insult a 
poet! Brendan hadn't been brought up to do that! 

I was out of Ireland for a while and did not get the history of « llt«l 
action in which Brendan had been involved. The case had been through 
the court. Now, bringing Brendan Behan into court was like bringing 
an Eskimo into court for putting a madwoman on an ice floe. One 
might get a verdict against him, but that wouldn't mean anything in 
terms of his conscience or conduct. "I don't respect the law," he wrote. 
It is an understatement. Brendan Behan was an anarchist in the com- 
plete sense. The only right he stood for was the right of the dispossessed 
person taking something from the dominating person even by violence 
or what we might call fraud. The man who was against Brendan won 
the case with damages. But how get damages from a man who had a 
contempt for the verdict and would use all his wits to prevent an oppo- 
nent making a profit out of the transaction? The verdict was only ihc 
beginning of the game. 

Brendan went into hiding. Back in Dublin, I could not locate him. 
I mentioned my quest to an American girl poet. She smiled and said, 
"I'll take you to Brendan." She did. His hideout was in an hospital 
where, under another name, he was being treated for a chronic disorder. 
His scheme was to stay there until a play of his was on in a theatre in 
Iceland. He could get a visa to go there, for the government would take 
it as a good-will mission to a country that had historic connections with 
Ireland. And from Iceland he could get to somewhere else. Well, he 
was a fellow who knew what it was to be on the runl 

While I was with him he told me about what had led up to this not 
unprecedented situation. Never before did I hear a story better told. 
Nobody could have written it as well as he told it, and if I knew that 
he himself had published it I would not read the written version. This 
was a show. It was Brendan Behan dramatizing Brendan Behan in all 
his rogueries, and it was incomparable. It began with two conspirators 
taking a dog to a racetrack. Their intentions were dishonest. They 
would give the dog an injection before they entered him for the course. 
The stimulus would last for an hour, giving him a vim that would put 
him ahead on the track. They would collect the bets they had on him 
and return with a couple of hundred pounds for their gains. The track 
that the dog was to race on was in the county Kildare. 

Over the road they took were streamers announcing— what could be 
more unexpected?— a rosary marathon. An American priest had come to 

36 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

Ireland with a project of having a thousand rosaries said in different 
parts of the country. The Archbishop of Dublin did not favor the idc;i 
of this mass prayer production, and so its originator had gone into Kil- 
dare to initiate it. The conspirators and the dog went on. and over 
every road they traveled was the prayerful announcement. Tho w«flry 
was being publicised, and the dog race wasn't. 

They halted to give the dog the stimulus that would put him first 
on the track. Then they went on to the course and handed over the dog 
to the attendant. "The race is postponed for an hour," the dog keeper 
told them. "On account of the rosary. The chapel is over there. We'll 
have the race when it is over." 

Here was a dilemma for the conspirators. The stimulus wouldn't 
last longer than an hour. Worse than that, the dog would show some 
aftereffects; a vet would be brought on the scene, the attempted fraud 
would be discovered, and Brendan and his fellow conspirator would 
be taken off to gaol. 

The bell rang for the rosary in the nearby chapel. "I don't think 111 
wait," Brendan told the attendant. "I'll take the dog back with me." 

"Oh, no, you won't," said the attendant. "Not till the race is finished. 
The dog's in my charge now, and he'll have to stay where he is." 

The two conspirators went off to consult. What could they do to pre- 
vent discovery and gaoling, not to mention an attack by angry sports- 
men? The sensible thing would be to get into their car and get back 
to Dublin, leaving the dog impounded. But Brendan Behan had his 
wits to fall back on. He went to the attendant again. 

"I should tell you," said he, "that that dog has the worst bark of any 
dog in Ireland. If you leave him there he'll start barking and howling." 

"I can't help that," said the man in charge. "I get him on the track 
after the rosary is over, and that's all I can do about it." 

"It's on my conscience," said Brendan. "I've brought him where hun- 
dreds of people will be here for their devotions. I warn you that at the 
most sacred part of the rosary, he'll bark in a way that will disturb 
not only one congregation, but every chapel in the countryside." The 
attendant, his mind more on the rosary than on the race, went to the 
kennels and came back with the dog. Holding him by the scruff of 
the neck, he threw him at Brendan. "Take your bloody dog to hell 
out of this," he said, as the sound of the first prayers came to them. 

Brendan wrote the story. He mentioned his fellow conspirator by a 
name that was identifiable. Hence the action for libel. Hence Brendan's 
waiting to get to Iceland on a good-will mission. As he told it, it was 
the best-told story I ever heard. 

The Irish Edge 37 

The Widow Malone 

Did you hear of the widow Malone, 

Who lived in the town of Athlone, 

Alone I 
Ohl she melted the hearts 
Of the swains in them parts — 
So lovely the widow Malone, 
So lovely the widow Malone. 

Of lovers she had a full score 

Or more; 

And fortunes they all had galore, 

In store; 

From the minister down 

To the Clerk of the Crown, 

All were courting the widow Malone, 


All were courting the widow Malone. 

But so modest was Mistress Malone, 
'Twas known 

No one ever could see her alone, 

Let them ogle and sigh, 

They could ne'er catch her eye — 

So bashful the widow Malone, 

So bashful the widow Malone. 

Till one Mr. O'Brien from Clare — 

How quarel 

It's little for blushing they care 

Down there — 

Put his arm round her waist, 

Took ten kisses at last — 

First quoted in Charles O'Malley, The Irish Dragoon, by Charles Lever, VoL I, 
pp. 148-149. The Pearson Publishing Co. New York. 1872. 

38 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

"Oh," says he "you're my Molly Malonc — 

My own!" 
"Oh," says he, "you're my Molly Malonel" 

And the widow they all thought so shy, 

My eyel 

Ne'er thought of a simper or sigh — 

For why? 

But, "Lucius," says she, 
"Since you've now made so free 

You may marry your Molly Malone, 


You may marry your Molly Malone." 

There's a moral contained in my song, 
Not wrong, 

And, one comfort, it's not very long, 
But strong: 

If for widows you die, 

Learn to kiss, not to sigh, 

For they're all like sweet Mistress Malonel 

OhI they're very like Mistress Malonel 

A Few Jigs and Reels 

The Irishman half drunk, the Englishman fed, the Scotsman hungry 
— that's how they are at their best.* 

• • • • 

Three things that could be bettered without being improved: poor 
clothes on a drunken man; a plain wife married to a blind man; a 
wooden sword in the hand of a coward.f 

• • • • 

The lake is not encumbered by the swan; nor the steed by the bridle; 
nor the sheep by the wool; nor the man by the soul that is in him. 

A hound's tooth, a thorn in the hands, a fool's retort arc the three 
sharpest things of all. 

• From oral tradition, f From A Miscellany of Irish Proverbs, compiled by 
Thomas F. O'Rahilly. The Talbot Press. Dublin. 1922. 

The Irish Edce 39 

The son's seat in his father's house is broad and steady, but the 
father's seat in the son's house is cramped and rickety. 

Idleness is the fool's desire. 

Long loneliness is better than bad company. 

Contentions are better than loneliness.J 

• • • • 

The parson complained to my friend that he had never heard -what 
he had so often heard of— the wit of the Irish peasant. "But you have 
never spoken to an Irish peasant?" "No." "Then let us try the next 
one we meet." The next man they met was leading by the halter a 
horse with a white blaze on his face which suggested to the parson the 
mild remark, "What a white face your horse has!" "Faith, then, it's 
your own face would be white if your neck had been so long in a 
halter!" retorted the man in a tone which suggested that the wish wm 
father to the thought. 

The Dean, a septuagenarian, broke off a conversation in order to 
hurry after a passing tram, to the amazed admiration of an old beggar 
woman. "Look at the ould dane," she cried, more to herself than to 
Father Ryan, "skipping about like a newly-married flea!"§ 

• • • • 

When Flanagan was a young boy, he used to sell papers on the 
streets of Dublin. One day an elderly gentleman approached him and 


cent: My dear young boy. will you kindly show me the way to the 

General Post Office? 

flan: I will to be shu-er. Go straight down along dere. take th first 
turn to th' right, an' den to th' left, and yew can't miss it. 

cent: Thank you, my boy. Tell me, have you no better clothes to 

flan: Sorra stitch, sir. 

cent: Oh, that's a pity. Have you no boots? 

flan: Boo-wits, deedin' I haven't. 

cent: That's very sad, very sad indeed. Have you no home, my boy? 

flan: Meself and me little bruder, -we live in an ow-el garret. 

♦From Ancient Cures, Charms and Usages of Ireland, by Lady Wilde. Ward & 
Downey. London. 1890. §By Richard Ashe-King, in The Gael, May, 1903. New York. 

40 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

gent: Oh, dear, oh dear. Your parents are not living then? 

flan: No, sir, they're both dead, God rest dcre souls. 

gent: Well, now, my boy, how would you like to come to a nice 
home where you would get plenty of food, clothes, boots, in fact. sur» 
rounded by all the grand things of life? 

FLAN:Be begob, dat'd be grand. 

gent: Very good, my son. I will take you to that grand place, and 
not alone will I give you all these splendid things, but at the same 
time I will show you the way to Heaven. 

flan: Hoi Hoi Is that so? An' sure yew don't know th' way to the 
Post Office yerself, yew dirty oul eejit.^J 

A Poet Makes His Own Epitaph 

Four Oonas, four Mauryas, four Aunias, four Nuras, 
Four fours of the finest maids in the four Fourths of Ireland- 
Four boards that are laid to make four sides of my coffin, 
Four nails to each board-the women who refused me their loves. 

UFrom Recitations, Monologues, and Character Sketches, by Val Vousden. Wal- 
ton's. Dublin, [no date] 

Attributed to Thomas Costello, seventeenth century. 

Part II 

The Celts 

Great were their deeds, their passions and their sports; 

With clay and stone 
They piled on strath and shore those mystic forts, 

Not yet o'erthrown; 
On cairn-crowned hills they held their council-courts; 

While youths alone, 
With giant dogs, explored the elk resorts, 

And brought them down. 

Of these was Finn, the father of the bard, 

Whose ancient song 
Over the clamour of all change is heard, 

Sweet-voiced and strong. 
Finn once o'ertook Grania, the golden-haired, 

The fleet and young; 
From her the lovely, and from him the feared, 

The primal poet sprung. 

OssianI Two thousand years of mist and change 
Surround thy name— 

The Fenian heroes now no longer range 
The hills of fame. 

The very names of Finn and Goll sound strange— 
Yet thine the same— 

By miscalled lake and desecrated grange- 
Remains, and shall remainl 

Thomas D'Arcy McGee 

From The Oxford Book of Irish Verse. London. 1958. 



The Prehistoric Period 

"Overwhere. Gaunt grey ghostly gossips growing grubber in the 
glow." With this sentence on page 594 of Finnegans Wake, the dim- 
ness of a country's prehistory is evoked. Great slabs of stone stand on 
stone supports — cromlechs or dolmens. They are all we can make out 
in "the spearsprid of dawn fire." In the case of Ireland we can sec 
something besides the cromlechs and the cairns — gold — treasuries of 
rings that were currency and well-wrought golden ornaments. The 
National Museum in Dublin has a great collection of them. And then 
we get to know that Ireland was the Klondike of a Europe that is 
known only to archeologists — the Europe of the time when the navies 
of Tarshish — that is, the ships equipped to sail from Tyre to Tartcaaua 
in Spain — traded with the West. 

In the first line of what purports to be an account of the successive 
colonization of Ireland there is the glint of gold. Nemed and his men 
came out of the Caspian Sea and into the Northern Ocean. "There 
appeared to them a golden tower on the sea close by them. Thus it 
was: when the sea was in ebb the tower appeared above it, and when 
it flowed it rose above the tower. Nemed went with his people towards 
it for greed of the gold." These Nemedians fought with the Fomorians 
for possession of Ireland and came under Fomorian oppression. Then 
came the Firbolg. After them, the Tuatha De Danann who took the 
land from the Firbolg. Then came "Sons of Mil," the Gaels, or, as 
they alternatively named themselves, the Scots, who displaced the De 
Danann and became the dominant people in Ireland. Their language, 
a variant of the Celtic language spoken in Gaul and Britain and once 
in Northern Italy, an Indo-European language which had Latin as a 
close relative, became the language of Ireland, Gaelic Scotland, and 
the Isle of Man. 

The account of the various colonizations is given in a composition 
of the seventh century — Leabhar Gabhdla, The Book of Invasions. It i» 
an academic production directed (1) towards giving a common ances- 
try to the dynastic people and (2) towards linking up with world his- 
tory as it was known at the time the beginning of the history of Ireland. 
But in this scenario a few genuinely traditional items have found a 
place — Amergin's magic chants and the talismans the Tuatha De 
Danann brought with them to Ireland from their abandoned cities. 

In The Book of Invasions, "The Children of Mil" arc rcpro 
sented as coming immediately from Spain. Their leaders are shadowy. 
Mil or Miledh is the Latin "Miles," a soldier; his wife is Scota, a 


44 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

feminization of the name by which the Romans knew the Gaels, Scot; 
his two sons are Eber and Eremon, both meaning "The Irishman." 
When it became necessary to include some outside families in the 
Milesian genealogies (Mil, by the way, never reached Ireland) a new 
ancestor was brought on the scene, Ith. the brother of Mil and the 
uncle of Eber and Eremon, the representatives of the northern and 
southern halves of Ireland on whom the original genealogies con- 

The function of the poet who accompanied the invaders is evident: 
it is to utter magic songs that would overawe the elemental beings who 
would prevent a fresh occupation of the land. 

The Celts 

No intelligent person takes literally racial names attached to popu- 
lation-groups — Latin, Slav, Nordic, Celtic, Anglo-Saxon. There were 
never unmixed races in any European country, and certainly there are 
none now. But there are cultural inheritances and distinctive attitudes, 
and if we are vigilant about it we may give groups with recognizable 
inheritances and attitudes an ancestral name. 

In this sense we can name the hereditary Irish people Celtic. We 
may note, too, that practically all the place names in Ireland — this 
applies to the partitioned northeast as well as to the main part — are 
Celtic; that the bulk of the personal names in the main part are Celtic, 
and that in the nordieast, in sections that are not Catholic, there is a 
large proportion of Celtic names deriving from Scot ancestry. And 
more vital than nomenclature is the historical fact that until the 
middle of the nineteenth century three-fourths of the population of 
Ireland spoke one of the extant Celtic languages, Gaelic. Leaving the 
very doubtful issue of race aside, the Ireland that is presented in these 
pages is Celtic by culture. 

"They shook all empires but they founded none," Mommscn, the 
German historian, said of the Celts. A French scholar, Professor 
Hubert,* qualifies this statement. The Celts of Gaul stabilized the 
weakening Roman Empire and enabled it to hold up against the 
people who were ultimately to destroy it — the German trihes — and 
in doing this they helped to spread a civilizing influence. They were 
not capable of making Celtia into an empire, but they had enough 
feeling for wide organization and social culture to recognize these in 
the Roman Empire and to give that empire their very effective support. 
They were looked upon as barbarians by the Greeks and Romans, but 
barbarians of a superior kind; they were ranked above the Germans, 

• Professor Hubert's books are The Rise of the Celts, published by Alfred Knopf, 
and The Decline of the Celts, published in the History of Civilization series. They 
are of gTcat interest to those who want to know about our Celtic ancestors and also 
to those who want to know about Europe before the Mediterranean domination. 

Heroes of Old 45 

Ligurians, Iberians. On contemporaries who observed them or reflected 
on their polity and on their leaders, they left an impression of remark- 
ableness for their military prowess and their individuality. The Celts 
had notions about another world which interested Latin thinkers. 
They were literate, too: when Julius Caesar with much advertised 
slaughter broke up the immigration of the Hclvctii into Gaul he found 
a census of the immigrants written in Greek characters. 

In Gaul, the Celts, according to Professor Hubert, "built their own 
houses and cities; they arranged the country to suit themselves, and as 
they arranged it so it still remains, for wherever the Celts established 
themselves permanently, without exception the French have remained. 
. . . The origin of the French nation goes back to the Celts. Behind 
them there is a formless past, without history or even a name." The 
French are a Celtic people, speaking Latin with a Celtic accent and 
in accordance with Celtic psychology, Professor Hubert maintains. In 
Gaul the place names are compounded with magus, meaning a plain 
or open field (in Ireland, Mayo, Maynooth) , and this designates 
"settlements in the plains, probably agricultural." In Spain into which 
the Celts also penetrated, place names are usually compounded with 
briga, which is the Gallic equivalent of the German burg. This shows 
a situation different from that in Gaul: it "tells of insecurity, a state of 
war or danger of war, and we can imagine the Celts of Spain who had 
conquered only the least attractive parts of the country, scattered in 
the midst of Ligurian tribes, driven off, but still formidable, and keep- 
ing watch on the Iberian or Tartessian states whose military power is 
always represented as considerable in the earliest writers." 

Where was the original home of the Celts? Not in Gaul, for there 
though the names of towns and villages are Celtic, the names of rivers 
and hills are from another language. But in what is now Germany the 
names of rivers, hills, forests are Celtic. This shows that the earliest 
settlements there were Celtic. Professor Hubert notes: 

Now the names given to the land and its natural features arc the 
most enduring of place names. The first occupants of a country 
always pass them on to their successors. . . . The names of places 
and peoples which have been enumerated cover the southwestern 
corner of Germany. The area in which they are found is a vast 
irregular triangle with one point on the Rhine near Cologne and 
another beyond Bohemia. 

At one time the Celtic and Germanic peoples neighbored each other, 
the Celtic being the people with the more advanced social and political 
forms. This is shown by the Celtic words in the Germanic languages. 
"Gothic reika, 'prince,' and reiki, 'kingdom.' come from the Gaulish 
rix and rigion (Irish riga), not from the Indo-European rex and its 
associated words." 

It is Professor Hubert's theory (among Celtic scholars he is alone in 

46 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

holding it) that the Celtic people who lived by the North Sea, break- 
ing off from the Celtic stock in the Bronze Age, became the Gaels 
(scholars write it "Goidels") . They were farmers and stock-raisers who 
did not live in villages but in houses in the middle of their fields as 
in Ireland today. They hired ships from a neighboring seafaring people 
and sailed for a new home, leaving, of course, a remnant behind: these 
were absorbed in the German expansion. According to this story, the 
Gaels would have had no share in the great events of the Celtic 
expansion; they would have been long settled in Ireland by the time 
the people whom the Greeks named Celts and the Romans Gauls made 
their contact with the Mediterranean powers. 

The Goidelic is one branch of the Celtic family; the Brythonic 
is the other. It should be explained that "Brythonic" docs not neces- 
sarily have to do with Britain; it has, in terms of the Celticists, more 
to do with Gaul. The distinction has to do with language. The lan- 
guage of Britain and Gaul has a "P" sound in it; the language of 
Ireland, Highland Scotland, and the Isle of Man has instead of a 
"P," a "Q," or, as it is written now, a "C." The word for "son" in 
Welsh is "map," which is the "ap" of familiar Welsh names — ap Rhys 
or Price, ap Howell or Powell; while the word for "son" in Gaelic is 
the familiar Irish or Scots "mac." The "P" using were the Continental, 
the "Q" using, the insular Celts. 

If we accept the theory that the Gaels went into Ireland in the 
Bronze Age we can understand their attaining such homogeneity at the 
beginning of Irish history: a single language is spoken throughout the 
country, and although it is recognized that there are racial groups that 
are not Gaelic, these groups are in a framework of a Gaelic polity. This 
is not the case in Britain or Gaul. According to Professor Hubert, the 
incoming Gaels gave Ireland its name: Piera, a name from an Indo- 
European root expressing fatness or fertility (the Greek home of the 
Muses had the same name) , and from Piera is derived Eiru, Hibernia, 
Juvernia, and the Welsh Iwerddon. Irish scholars do not accept this 

The distinguished Irish scholar, Professor MacNeill, maintains that 
the Celts did not arrive in Ireland until the Iron Age, and did not 
completely establish themselves there until the second century a.d. 
Who were the people who were there already, the people who gave a 
name to the country? They were the ancient Hesperian people whose 
present-day representatives, Professor MacNeill holds, are the Basques. 
The Gaels imposed their language upon them, but took over certain 
of their institutions. Another Irish authority, Professor O'Rahilly, 
puts the arrival of the Gaelic-speaking Celts at a date even later than 
Professor MacNeill's. For the original home of these invaders. Professor 
O'Rahilly goes as far as Switzerland: they were the Helvetii whose 
planned emigration Caesar broke up. According to the census that his 
intelligence service got hold of, there were over three hundred thou- 

Heroes of Old 47 

sand people in the movement: the Roman legions could not have 
destroyed all of them. A remnant went on, reached western Gaul, and 
got shipping for Ireland where, with their iron weapons, they were 
able to establish themselves in a short time. Who were the j>eople who 
were in Ireland before these Celts? Celts speaking another idiom. Pro- 
fessor O'Rahilly says. They were Brythonic-spcaking. their language 
being of the same type as that of the Welsh and Hretons of today. 

Long before the Roman legions subjugated Gaul, in the golden age 
of Greece, a sensational event was noted in "the news that came to 
Pontus simultaneously with the event, that an army from the land of 
the Hyperboreians had taken a Greek city named Rome, situated near 
the Great Sea." These Far Northerners were the Celts under Brennus 
who had his name from the war god Bran. At the other end of the 
Mediterranean, a city that was really Greek, Marseilles, barely escaped 
being taken by another army of the same people: envoys returning 
from making a thank-offering at Delphi for that deliverance heard of 
the taking of Rome. The Celts were across the Pyrenees at the same 
time as they were across the Alps. And in the East they threw a colony 
into Asia Minor which retained its Celtic language until the fourth 
century of our era: the trophy we know as "The Dying Gaul"' was put 
up to commemorate a victory won over the Celts in that part of the 
world. On the neck of the dying warrior is the torque, the collar of 
twisted gold specimens which we can look at in the National Museum 
of Ireland. And even as we dismiss the idea of race, we are forced to 
admit that the Eurasian warrior of the Greek sculptor might he an 
Irishman of today. Speaking of the culture of La Tene which is sup- 
posed to have ended with the conquest of Gaul. Professor Hubert says. 
"The last heir of that art, which was crossed about the sixth century 
with Germanic art, is the art of Ireland of the time of Charlemagne, 
with its illuminated manuscripts and its gorgeous gold work." 

The Name "Ireland" 

The name "Ireland" comes from the Scandinavians: it is the native 
name "Eire" with "land" added. "Eire." anciently "Eirn," has a dative 
case "Eirinn." and this is often wrongly used as a nominative. Two 
scholars, Sir John Rhys and Henri Hubert, think the name comes from 
the Indo-European "Piera." Professor MacNeill thinks it is from a 
community in the southwest, the "Ivernian." In poetry two other 
names are used— "Banba." signifying Ireland in the heroic sense, and 
"Fola," signifying Ireland in the intellectual sense: thus the poets write 
of "the heroes of Banba" and "the scholars or poets of Fola." 

The Provinces of Ireland 

The division of Ireland is fourfold, four provinces — Ulster in the 
north, Munster in the south, Leinster in the east, Connacht in the 

48 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

west. As in the case of the name of the country, three of the provinces 
in their non-Gaelic forms have Scandinavian terminations. Connacht 

(sometimes written Connaught) retains its ancient name; the native 
names for the other provinces are Ulaidh (Oola) , Mumhan (Muan) , 
Leighean (Lehan) . Originally the division was fivefold (the Irish word 
for province means "Fifth") and in prehistoric times it was sevenfold. 
And so the present-day provinces do not actually correspond with the 
older divisions. The war, for instance, between Ulaidh and Connacht 
was not a war between Ulster as we see it on the map and Connacht 
as we see it on the map, although the two royal sites, Emain Macha 

(Armagh) and Cruachan are in present-day Ulster and Connacht. In 
the fifth century certain kings formed a royal domain in what is now 
the county Meath and set up a royal residence there, Tara (Tearach) . 
In speaking of the geography of early and medieval Ireland, it should 
not be forgotten that part of Scotland (Alba) was included in the 
Gaelteacht, Gaeldom. 

The Irsh Epfc 

More than any other European cycle outside the Greek, the stories 
of the early Iron Age in Ireland have epical character and epical scope. 
The inclusive narrative that is named the Tain R6 Cualnge, The 
Cattle Raid of Cooley, is in prose with verse-passages that give bril- 
liancy to the narrative but only stylize some preceding or succeeding 

The long episode given here, the Combat at the Ford, is the central 
incident in the Tain. The events leading up to it are these: Deirdre, 
her husband, Naisi, and his two brothers have been brought back to 
Ireland by promises of safety made by King Concobar. Fergus, the 
most chivalrous of Concobar's generation, has pledged himself For their 
safety. But despite his own and Fergus' pledges, Concobar has Naisi 
and his brothers (the Sons of Usnach) slain and Deirdie taken to his 
house. This leads to defection from the heroic companionship. Fergus, 
with other of the Ulster heroes, takes service with Maeve, a queen of 
the West. 

But the narrative has another point of departure. There is the 
humorous and extravagant competition between Maeve and her hus- 
band, or rather her consort, as to their respective possessions. Maeve 
matches Ailill, but then it is discovered that one of her bulls, scorning 
to be under the charge of a woman, has left her herd and joined Ailill's. 
This the queen cannot bear. The most famous bull in Ireland is in 
possession of the Ultonians, and Maeve sends envoys to procure him. 
But the arrogance of the envoys forces a break in the negotiations. 
They are sent back to Maeve without the bull. 

Another story claims our attention at this point. An Ulster land- 
owner has a mysterious woman come to his house; he takes her as his 
wife, and, as is usual in the story of the Supernatural Bride, he is for- 

Heroes of Oi.n 49 

bidden to speak of her. But at an assembly of the men of Ulster he 
boasts of his wife, even going so far as to say she could rare Concobar's 
horses. He is seized and would be put to death unless his wifii makes 
good his boast. She is pregnant, but nevertheless rates Concobar's 
horses. She dies at the end of the course and puts a curse on the men 
of Ulster: it dooms the men of Concobar's dominion to the debility o£ 
a woman in childbirth on certain occasions. 

Maeve decides to invade Ulster, not only for the purpose of carrying 
off the bull but of humiliating Concobar who was a former husband 
of hers. She times her expedition to coincide with the debility of the 
Ulster warriors. 

But the prize of the war, the meed of victory, as the translators of 
Homer put it, is only a great bellowing bull! This is where the Irish 
conception fails to come within measurable distance of the Greek. The 
Helen-Deirdre theme which should have gone to universalize the Irish 
story becomes marginal. And so, in spite of the magnificence, charm, 
and enchantment of certain of the episodes, in spite of the humor and 
sportsmanship that make it unique in early literature, the famous hull 
has stamped the Tain into a pastoral civilization. 

Maeve assembles a mighty army; it includes not only her own levy 
with the Ulster refugees, but forces from all the other provinces, and 
even the professional Gaulish soldiers settled in Leinster. Cu Chullain. 
either because he is not of Ulster descent or because his semi-divinity 
immunizes him, is not afflicted by the curse. He takes it on himself to 
guard the ford across which Maevc's army has to push. As one hero to 
others, he offers single combat, and he cannot be swept aside until the 
series of duels is decided by his death. Maeve, one guesses, would have 
made little of the chivalric code if Fergus had not been there to press 
for its observance. Champion after champion engages Cu Chullain 
and is overcome. „ . 

It is at this stage that Ferdiad is brought on to fight Cu Uhiillain. 
They have been comrades in arms, trained together by a woman-war- 
rior. Every inducement is offered to Ferdiad to take up Cu Chullain s 
challenge, the greatest being marriage with Finnabair, Maeve's daugh- 
ter (although it is not so stated, Ferdiad, the chief of a va«al people, 
must have been moved by the prospect of having a princess from one 
of the great lineages for wife, apart from Finnabair's evident winning- 
ness) . As in the fight between Achilles and Hector we feel that there* 
something unfair about this match: after all. like Achilles, Cu Chullain 
is semi-divine, and as Achilles has divine armor, so Cu Chullain has a 
secret weapon which ultimately he will use: it is a curious weapon, 
launched by the foot down a running stream. 

It is a long time since the stories about the Ultonian hero were 
formed into an epic-tale— probably thirteen hundred years. The his- 
tory of Western Europe had its beginning after that, and With this 
fact in mind we are startled to learn that, only forty years ago, an 

50 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

episode out of the career of Cu Chullain was being recited by the 
peat fire by a man who bore the unbardic name of James Kelly. As 
the Cu Chullain of this episode is the Cu Chullain of the folk, the 
living Cu Chullain, we place him before the Cu Chullain of the 
written stories. 

In 1904 Stephen Gwynn had James Kelly in non-colloquial Irish 
recite to him the lay of Cu Chullain's tragic encounter with his son. 
He published his translation of the lay in an essay entitled "The Life 
of a Song." What is given here are extracts from the essay and from 
the translation of the lay. 

The story of Deirdre had currency in Scotland as a folk tale, but 
not in Ireland. The version given here is nineteenth century and is 
from literary sources. ... In early Irish story-telling there is a particu- 
lar oddness which makes a modern retelling difficult; it has to be said 
that in "Deirdre of the Sorrows" the difficulty has not been fairly met. 

The heroes are subject to prohibitions— geasa. These could be taken 
for points of honor— they are acted on as if they were points of honor 
—except that they are imposed from the outside, and, as far as we can 
make out, are purely arbitrary. Predictability is a large ingredient in 
story-telling, and anything that takes from predictability in the con- 
duct of the characters is a defect. The geasa, or prohibitions, do that. 

In "Deirdre of the Sorrows" the nineteenth-century poet and anti- 
quarian, Sir Samuel Ferguson, romanticizes the gets in one case and 
in another leaves it unexplained. Deirdre in the old story is determined 
to take a young rather than an elderly husband; she forces the elope- 
ment on Naisi by putting him under geis— he must not leave her in 
Connor's territory. The crisis in the story — Fergus delaying for a feast 
instead of going ahead with the people who have placed themselves 
under his protection— is due to another prohibition: he must not 
refuse a feast offered him by one of the Red Branch. The duel between 
Cu Chullain and his son is also due to a prohibition— the prohibition 
laid on the young man against telling his name and race. In this case, 
however, the prohibition becomes meaningful in terms of narrative: 
the fact that the young man knows who his antagonist is, knows, too, 
that his own destruction will be direful to that antagonist, gives some- 
thing over and above what is in the theme of the combat between 
father and son; and makes the story that was related by James Kelly 
more poignant than its Iranian parallel, "Sohrab and Rustum." 

"The Pillow Talk" and "The Combat at the Ford" are translated 
directly from the Irish text of the Book of Leinster by the American 
scholar, Joseph Dunn. Only the first half of "The Pillow Talk" is given, 
enough to project what is the greatest creation of old Irish literature,' 
the personality of Medb. In Professor Dunn's translation, the old 
forms of the names are kept: the name now written "Maeve" appears 
as "Medb." On the other hand, in "Deirdre of the Sorrows" the name 
"Concobar" is given in its modern form "Conor." 

Heroes of Old 51 

"The Pillow Talk" is abbreviated and so is "The Combat at the 
F or d" — this mainly by leaving out the verse passages in it. The litera- 
teurs of Gaelic Ireland did not consider verse a proper medium fnr 
narrative. But when in the course of a narrative they came to inci- 
dents or speeches that were susceptible of brilliant treatment, they 
put them into verse. The verse usually repeats what had been said in 
prose. So in this presentation there arc two reasons for leaving out 
the verse passages: one is that the effects that the verse was designed 
for, effects of brilliancy, can hardly ever be carried into translations, 
and the other reason is that the verse, repeating what has been said 
before, interrupts the narrative. However, there is one poem in "The 
Combat at the Ford" that should be retained: it is Cu Chullain's la- 
ment over Ferdiad. This is a superb example of a mode that the early 
Irish poets were the first to exploit — the dramatic lyric; besides, it 
brings out an element which makes the Tain remarkable among early 
compositions — the element of chivalry. 

Its tone is fiercely provincial, but we can see that the Tain is in 
process of being made into a national epic. All referpnrps to attack on 
or defeat of Tara have been suppressed; Cu Chullain's body is buried 
in Ulster's Einain Macha, but his head is buried at Tara. He pro- 
claims himself a national hero when, on taking arms, he "swears by 
the gods my people swear by, I care not if my life has only the span of 
a day and a night if my deeds be spoken of by the men of Ireland." 

Introduction to the Storiks Auout Finn 

Fian, Fianna: According to Professor MacNeill the word means 
something like vassal, and this scholar suggests that the Fianna were 
levies conscripted from a subject population. Their leaders (Finn 
MacCuhal is the outstanding one) have no territorial lordship; they 
move readily from place to place; they support themselves, as would 
a dispossessed people in an uncrowded country, by the chase; they arc 
hunters when they are not fighters. And Finn is no aristocratic hero 
as Cu Chullain is: he is a folk hero, crafty as well as brave, vindictive 
as well as generous. His saga came to exceed in popularity that of Cu 
Chullain's; it was developed in every part of Ireland as well as in 
Gaelic Scotland. It had advantages over the Cu Chullain saga in that 
it was not written down, that it had no fixity of text. And it was not 
so tragic as aristocratic sagas tend to be; it had room for humor. Then, 
unlike Cu Chullain, Finn lived to the prime of manhood and had 
sons and grandsons; he had a more complete and many-sided life than 
the short-lived and singular Cu Chullain. The Finn saga came out of 
the folk, and to a large extent it was developed by the folk. 

But it also came into the courts. A time came when the courts of 
southern Ireland tired of hearing about the exploits of the northern 
heroes and wanted to have a saga of their own. Their story-tellers 
brought Finn forward and built him up as a national hero, the 

52 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

guardian of the high-kingship. But even while they did this they kept 
the northern saga in mind, making some of the new court stories re- 
flect some of the old. The elderly Finn's passion for Crania, her elope- 
ment with the youthful Dermott, reflects the elderly Concobar's passion 
for Deirdre and her elopement with the youthful Naisi. Dermott, like 
Cu Chullain, is related to the Divine Folk — his protector is Angus, 
god of Love and Youth. But the tone of the two stories is so different 
that their resemblance is not apparent: the King of Ireland's daughter 
is a modern person compared to the rhymer's daughter, and her Story 
is romantic rather than heroic. 

This story is crucial in the Finn saga; after this episode there is 
dissension in the Fianna. Finn has shown himself ready to put his 
passion for Grania above the interest of the companionship. Then the 
King of Ireland, Cormac's son Cairbry, turns on the Fianna and de- 
stroys them. Oscar, Finn's grandson, the most sympathetic of the 
Fianna falls at the battle of Gowra. Oisin goes into the Land of 
Youth. Tara, too, fades out of the stories. The high-kingship remains, 
but after the time of Niall (fifth century) , it alternates between the 
northern and southern branches of his descendants and different royal 
sites are taken over. Its prestige goes, and Tara is abandoned. 

The eclipse of Tara and the Fianna puts the story-tellers into a 
reminiscing mood, and out of that mood comes the great story of 
Oisin's sojourn in the Land of Youth and his return to Ireland. He 
comes back to an Ireland in which the Fianna are no longer remem- 
bered. He meets Saint Patrick, is well entreated, and, greatly to the 
saint's satisfaction, to him relates the old Pagan stories. This friendship 
between the new-coming saint and the long-surviving hero dramatizes 
the reconciliation of Paganism and Christianity which was without 
parallel in any other country. 

(Note: English renderings of ancient Irish names, naturally, vary 
considerably, and of course there is no "official" or "correct" spelling 
of any of them. In this book, the original author's spelling has been 
preserved, and so such names as Cu Chullain may appear in several 
different ways, but of course are always easily recognizable.) — P.C. 

The Tuatha De Danaan 

The Tuatha De Danaan lived in the northern isles of the world, 
learning lore and magic and druidism and wizardry and cunning, 
until they surpassed the sages of the arts of heathendom. There were 
four cities in which they learned lore and science and diabolic arts, 
to wit, Falias and Gorias, Murias and Findias. Out of Falias was 
brought the Stone of Fal, which was in Tara. It used to roar under 
every king that would take the realm of Ireland. Out of Gorias was 
brought the Spear that Lug had. No battle was ever won against it or 
him who held it in his hand. Out of Findias was brought the Sword 
of Nuada. When it was drawn from its deadly sheath, no one ever 
escaped from it, and it was irresistible. Out of Murias was brought 
Dagda's Cauldron. No company ever went from it unthankful.* 

The Magic Song Amergin Utters Against the 
Wind Raised by the De Danaan 

I invoke the land of Ireland, 
Much-coursed be the fertile sea, 
Fertile be the fruit-strewn mountain, 
Fruit-strewn be the showery wood, 
Showery be the river of water-falls, 
Of water-falls be the lake of deep pools, 
Deep-pooled be the hill-top well, 
A well of tribes be the assembly, 
An assembly of the kings be Tara, 

From Ancient Irish Tales, edited by Tom Peete Cross and Clark Harris Slow, 
p. 28. Copyright, 1936, by Henry Holt & Co., Inc. New York. 

•The names of the cities arc evocative enough to fill three lines of Yeats's: 

The towery gates of Gorias, 

And Findias and Falias, 

And long-forgotten Murias. 

Ibid., p. 19. 


54 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

Tara be the hill of the tribes, 

The tribes of the sons of Mil, 

Of Mil of the ships, the barks, 

Let the lofty bark be Ireland, 

Lofty Ireland, darkly sung, 

An incantation of great cunning; 

The great cunning of the wives o£ Bres, 

The wives of Bres of Buaigne; 

The great lady Ireland, 

Eremon hath conquered her, 

Ir, Eber have invoked for her. 

I invoke the land of Ireland. 

The Invaders of Ireland 

Sometime in the nineteenth century an anonymous versifier — he 
was probably a hedge schoolmaster — put into street-ballad form the 
successive conquests and colonization, thereby giving an item of in- 
terest to the fireside while presenting the reader with a sequence of 
names that occur in Irish tradition and modern Irish poetry. 

Should any inquire about Eirinn, 
It is I who can give him the truth 
Concerning the deeds of each daring 
Invader, since Time was a youth. 

First Cassir, Bith's venturesome daughter, 
Came here o'er the Eastern Sea; 
And fifty fair damsels she brought her 
To solace her warriors three. 

Bith died at the foot of his mountain, 
And Ladra on top of his height; 
And Cassir by Boyle's limpid fountain, 
Ere rushed down the Flood in its might. 

Taken by the editor from a 1913 ballad-sheet. 

Heroes of Old 55 

For a year, while the waters encumber 
The Earth, at Tul-tunna of strength, 
I slept, none enjoyed such sweet slumber 
As that which I woke from at length. 

When Partholan came to the island 
From Greece, in the Eastern Land, 
I welcomed him gaily to my land, 
And feasted the whole of his band. 

Again, when Death seized on the strangers 
I roamed the land, merry and free, 
Both careless and fearless of dangers, 
Till blithe Nemid came over the sea. 

The Firbolgs and roving Firgallians 
Came next like the waves in their flow; 
The Firdonnans arrived in battalions, 
And landed in Erris — Mayo. 

Then came the wise Tuatha de Danaans, 
Concealed in black clouds from their foe; 
I feasted with them near the Shannon, 
Though that was a long time ago. 

After them came the Children of Mil£, 
From Spain, o'er the Southern waves; 
I lived with the tribes as their Filea 
And chanted the deeds of their braves. 

Time ne'er my existence could wither, 
From Death's grasp I always was freed, 
Till Patrick the Christian came hither 
To spread the Redeemer's pure creed. 

My name it is Fintan, the Fair Man, 
Of Bochra, the son — you must know it: 
I lived through the Flood in my lair, man; 
I am now an illustrious poet. 

56 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

The Duel of Cu Chullain and His Son 

Cu Chullain, the Achilles of Irish epic, was famous from the day in 
boyhood when he got his name by killing, bare-handed, the smith's 
fierce watchdog that would have torn him. The ransom (penalty) for 
the killing was laid on by the boy himself, and it was that he should 
watch Culann's house for a year and a day till a pup should be grown 
to take the place of the slain dog. So he came to be called Cu Chullain, 
Culann's Hound, and by that name he was known, when, as a young 
champion, he set out for the Isle of Skye, where the warrior witch 
Sgathach (from whom the island is called) taught the crowning feats 
of arms to all young heroes who could pass through the ordeals she 
laid upon them. 

There was no trial that Cu Chullain could not support, and the fame 
of him drew on a combat with another Amazonian warrior, Aoife, nnd 
she gave love to her conqueror — whose passion for the fierce queen was 
not enough to keep him from Ireland. When he made ready to go, 
the woman told him that a child was to be born of their embraces, and 
she asked what should be done with it. "If it be a girl, keep it," said 
Cu Chullain, "but if a boy, wait till his thumb can fill this ring" — and 
he gave her the circlet— "then send him to me." So he departed, leaving 
wrath behind him. 

The child born was a son, and Aoife reared him and taught him all 
the feats of arms that could be taught to a mortal, except one only, 
and of that feat only Cu Chullain was master; there would be none 
could kill him but his own father. And when the boy had learnt all and 
was a perfect warrior, Aoife sent him out to Ireland under a pledge to 
refuse his name to any that should ask it, well knowing how the 
wardens of the coast would stop him on the shore. It fell out as she 
purposed. The young Connlaoch defeated champion after champion 
till Cu Chullain went down, and was recognized by his son. But the 
pledge tied Connlaoch's tongue, and only when he lay dying, slain by 
the magic throw which Aoife had withheld from his knowledge, could 
he reveal himself to his father. 

Cu Chullain says: 

"Champion, tell your story, 
For I see your wounds are heavy; 
'Twill be short ere they raise your cairn, 
So hide your testament no longer." 

By Stephen Gwynn, in The Gael, April, 1904, pp. 143-145. New York. 

Heroes of Old 57 

Connlaoch says: 

Let me fall on my face, 

For methinks 'tis you are my father, 

And for fear lest men of Eire should see 

Me retreating from your fierce grapple, 

I took pledges to my mother 

Not to give the story to any single man, 

If I would give it to any under the sun, 

It is to your bright body I would tell it. 

I lay my curse on my mother, 

That she put me under pledge; 

But if it were not for the feat of magic 

I had not been got for nothing." 

Cu Chullain says: 

I lay my curse on your mother, 
For she destroyed a multitude of young ones; 
And because the treachery that was in her 
Left your smooth flesh reddened." 

Then comes, with the boy's dying word, the revelation of the most 
tragic moment in the fight. 

"Cu Chullain, beloved father, 
Is it not a wonder you did not know mc 
When I cast my spear crooked and feebly 
Against your bush of blades." 

Where will yon find a finer stroke of invention. The boy, tongue-tied 
by his pledge, knows his father and feels his defense fulling against the 
terrible onset; he would not, if he could, be the victor, but he thinks 
of a way within the honor of his bond which may awaken knowledge 
of him; and he casts his javelin with a clumsiness not to be looked for 
in the champion "that tied Conall." It is useless, the battle madness is 
in Cu Chullain, he thinks only of conquest, an end to the supple, quick 
parrying, and he throws the gae bulga, a spear of dragon's bones glisten- 
ing with points (his "bush of blades") , with the magic cast that there 
is no meeting. And now there is nothing left to him but the lamen- 

58 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

"Och! Och! Great is my madnessl 

I lifting here my young ladl 

My son's head in my one hand, 

His arms and his raiment on the other. 

"I, the father who slew his son, 

May I never throw spear nor noble javelin; 

The hand that slew its son, 

May it win torture and sharp wounding. 

"The grief for my son I put from me never, 
Till the flagstones of my side crumble, 
It is in me, and through my heart, 
Like a sharp blaze in the hoary hill grasses. 

"If I and my heart's Connlaoch 
Were playing our kingly feats together, 
We could range from wave to shore 
Over the five provinces of Erin." 

Pillow Talk 

Once on a time, when Ailill and Medb had spread their royal bed 
in Cruachan, the stronghold of Connacht, such was the pillow-talk 
betwixt them: 

Said Ailill, "True is the saying, O woman, 'She is a well-off woman 
that is a rich man's wife.' " 

"Aye, that she is," answered the wife; "but wherefore say'st thou 

"For this," Ailill replied, "that thou art this day better off than the 
day that first I took thee." 

Then answered Medb, "As well-off was I before I ever saw thee." 

"It was a wealth, indeed, we never heard nor knew of," said Ailill; 
"but a woman's wealth was all thou hadst, and foes from lands next 
thine were wont to carry off the spoil and booty that they took from 

"Not so was I," said Medb; "the High King of Erin himself was 

From Tdin B6 Cualnge (The Cattle Raid of Cooley), translated by Joseph Dunn, 
pp. 1-4. David Nott & Co. London. 1914. 

Heroes of Old 59 

my father, Eochaid Feidlich son of Finn son of Finnen son of Finnguin 
son of Rogen Ruad son of Rigen son of Blathacht son of Beothacht 
son of Enna Agnech son of Angus Turbech. Of daughters had he six: 
Derbriu, Ethne and Ele, Clothru, Mugain and Medb, myself, that was 
the noblest and seemliest of them all. It was I was the goodliest of 
them in bounty and gift-giving, in riches and treasures. It was I was 
best of them in battle and strife and combat. It was I that had fifteen 
hundred royal mercenaries of the sons of aliens exiled from their own 
land, and as many more of the sons of freemen of the land. These were 
as a standing household-guard," continued Medb; "hence hath my 
father bestowed one of the five provinces of Erin upon me, that is, the 
province of Cruachan: wherefore 'Medb of Cruachan' am I called. Men 
came from Finn son of Ross Ruad, king of Lcinstcr, to seek mc for a 
wife, and I refused him; and from Cairbre Niafer son of Ross Ruad, 
king of Tara, to woo me, and I refused him; and they came from 
Conchobar son of Fachtna Fathach, king of Ulster, and I refused him 
likewise. They came from Eochaid Bee, and I went not; for it is I 
that exacted a peculiar bride-gift, such as no woman ever required of 
a man of the men of Erin, namely, a husband without avarice, without 
jealousy, without fear. For should he be mean, the man with whom I 
should live, we were ill-matched together, inasmuch as I am great in 
largess and gift-giving, and it would be a disgrace for my husband if I 
should be better at spending than he, and for it to be said that I was 
superior in wealth and treasures to him, while no disgrace would it be 
were one as great as the other. Were my husband a coward, it were as 
unfit for us to be mated, for I by myself and alone break battles ami 
fights and combats, and it would be a reproach for my husband should 
his wife be more full of life than himself, and no reproach our being 
equally bold. Should he be jealous, the husband with whom I should 
live, that too would not suit me, for there never was a time that 1 had 
not one man in the shadow of another. Ilowbeit, such a husband have 
I found, namely thyself, Ailill son of Ross Ruad of Leinster. Thou 
wast not churlish; thou wast not jealous; thou wast not a sluggard. 
It was I plighted thee, and gave purchase price to thec, which of right 
belongs to the bride — of clothing, namely, the raiment of twelve men, 
a chariot worth thrice seven bondmaids, the breadth of thy face of 
red gold, the weight of thy left forearm of white bronze. Whoso brings 
shame and sorrow and madness upon thee, no claim for compensation 
or satisfaction hast thou therefor that I myself have not, but it is to me 
the compensation belongs," said Medb, "for a man dependent upon a 
woman's maintenance is what thou art." 

"Nay, not such was my state," said Ailill; "but two brothers had 

60 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

I; one of them over Tara, the other over Leinster; namely Finn over 
Leinster and Cairbre over Tara. I left the kingship to them because 
they were older but not superior to me in largess and bounty. Nor 
heard I of a province in Erin under woman's keeping but this province 
alone. And for this I came and assumed the kingship here as my 
mother's successor; for Mata of Muresc, daughter of Matach of Conn- 
acht, was my mother. And who could there be for me to have as my 
queen better than thyself, being, as thou wert, daughter of the High 
King of Erin?" 
"Yet so it is," pursued Medb, "my fortune is greater than thine." 
"I marvel at that," Ailill made answer, "for there is none that hath 
greater treasures and riches and wealth than I: indeed, to my knowl- 
edge there is not." 

The Combat at the Ford 

The four great provinces of Erin were side by side and against Cu 
Chulainn from Monday before Samain (Hallowe'en) to Wednesday 
after Spring-beginning, and without leave to work harm or vent their 
rage on the province of Ulster, while yet all the Ulstermen were sunk 
in their nine days' pains, and Conall Cernach sought out battle in 
strange foreign lands paying the tribute and tax of Ulster. Sad was the 
plight and strait of Cu Chulainn during that time, for he was not a 
day or a night without fierce, fiery combat waged on him by the men 
of Erin, until he killed Calatin with his seven and twenty sons and 
Fraech son of Fidach and performed many deeds and successes which 
are not enumerated here. Now this was sore and grievous to Medb and 
to Ailill. 

Then the men of Erin took counsel who should be fit to send to 
the ford to fight and do battle with Cu Chulainn to drive him off 
fjom them. 

With one accord they declared that it should be Ferdiad son of 
Damon son of Daire, the great and valiant warrior of the Fir Domnann, 
the horn-skin from Irrus Domnann, the irresistible force, and the 
battle-rock of destruction, the own dear foster-brother of Cu Chulainn. 
And fitting it was for him to go thither, for well-matched and alike was 
their manner of fight and of combat Under the same instructress had 
they done skillful deeds of valor and arms, when learning the art 

Ibid., pp. 217-267. 

Heroes of Old 61 

with Scathach and with Uathach and with Aife. Yet was it the felling 
of an oak with one's fists, and the stretching of the hand into a serpent's 
den, and a going into the lair of a lion, for hero or champion in the 
world, aside from Cu Chulainn, to fight or combat with Ferdiad on 
whatever ford or river or mere he set his shield. And neither of them 
overmatched the other, save in the feat of the gae bulga (bag-spear) 
which Cu Chulainn possessed. Howbeit against this, Ferdiad was horn- 
skinned when fighting and in combat with a warrior on the ford; and 
they thought he could avoid the gae bulga and defend himself against 
it, because of the horn about him of such kind that neither arms nor 
multitude of edges could pierce it. 

Then were messengers and envoys sent from Medb and Ailill to 
Ferdiad. Ferdiad denied them their request, and dismissed and sent 
back the messengers, and he went not with them, for he knew where- 
for they would have him, to fight and combat with his friend, with his 
comrade and his fosterbrother, Cu Chulainn. 

Then did Medb despatch to Ferdiad the druids and the poets of the 
camp, and lampooners and hard-attackers to the end that they might 
make the three satires to stay him and the three scoffing speeches 
against him, to mock at him and revile and disgrace him, that they 
might raise three blisters on his face,— Blame, Blemish, and Disgrace, 
that he might not find a place in the world to lay his head, if he came 
not with them to the tent of Medb and Ailill. 

Ferdiad came with them for the sake of his own honor and for fear 
of their bringing shame on him, since he deemed it better to fall by 
the shafts of valor and bravery and skill than to fall by the shafts of 
satire, abuse, and reproach. And when Ferdiad was come into the camp, 
Medb and Ailill beheld him, and great and most wonderful joy 
possessed them, and they sent him to where their trusty people were, 
and he was honored and waited on, and choice, well-flavored strong 
liquor was poured out for him until he became drunken and merry. 
Finnabair, daughter of Ailill and Medb, was seated at his side. It was 
Finnabair that placed her hand on every goblet and cup Ferdiad 
quaffed. She it was that gave him three kisses with every cup that he 
took. She it was that passed him sweet-smelling apples over the bosom 
of her tunic. This is what she ceased not to say, that her darling and 
her chosen sweetheart of the world's men was Ferdiad. And when Medb 
got Ferdiad drunken and merry, great rewards were promised him if 
he would make the fight and combat. 

When now Ferdiad was satisfied, happy and joyful, Medb spoke, 
"Hail now, Ferdiad. Dost thou know the occasion wherefoi thou art 
summoned to this tent?" 

62 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

"I know not, in truth," Ferdiad replied; "unless it be that the nobles 
of the men of Erin are here. Why is it a less fitting time for me to be 
here than any other good warrior?" 

"It is not that, indeed," answered Medb, "but to give thee a chariot 
worth four times seven bondmaids, and the apparel of two men and 
ten men, of cloth of every color, and the equivalent of Mag Muir- 
themne of the rich soil of Mag Ai, and that thou shouldst be at all 
times in Cruachan, and wine be poured out for thee there; the freedom 
of thy descendants and thy race forever, free of tribute, free of rent, 
without constraint to encamp or take part in our expeditions, without 
duress for thy son, or for thy great-grandson, till the end of time and 
existence; this leaf-shaped golden brooch of mine shall be thine, wherein 
are ten-score ounces, and ten-score half-ounces, and ten-score scruples, 
and ten-score quarters; Finnabair, my daughter and Ailill's. to be thy 
own wife, and my own most intimate friendship, if thou exactest that 

"He needs it not," they cried, one and all; "great are the rewards 
and gifts!" 

[Such lavish rewards, with sureties, were not enough to persuade 
Ferdiad to fight Cu Chulainn, until Medb tried a trick.] 

"Ye men," said Medb, in the wonted fashion of stirring up disunion 
and dissension, as if she had not heard Ferdiad at all, "true is the word 
Cu Chulainn speaks." 

"What word is that?" asked Ferdiad. 

"He said, then," replied Medb, "he would not think it too much 
if thou shouldst fall by his hands in the choicest feat of his skill in 
arms, in the land whereto he should come." 

"It was not just for him to speak so," said Ferdiad; "for it is not 
cowardice or lack of boldness that he hath ever seen in me by day 
or night. And I speak not so of him. if it be true that he spoke so, I 
will be the first man of the men of Erin to contend with him on the 
morrow, how loath soever I am to do so!" 

And he gave his word in the presence of them all that he would go 
and meet Cu Chullain. For it pleased Medb, if Ferdiad should fail to 
go, to have them as witnesses against him, in order that she might say 
that it was fear or dread that caused him to break his word. 

[Cu Chulainn, when warned by his friend and master Fergus, of the 
impending fight with Ferdiad, expressed his dismay.] 

"As my soul liveth, it is not to an encounter we wish our friend to 
come, and not for fear, but for love and affection of him; and almost 

Heroes of Old 63 

I would prefer to fall by the hand of that warrior than for him to fall 
by mine." 

"It is just for that," answered Fergus, "that thou shouldst be on thy 
guard and prepared. Say not that thou hast no fear of Ferdiad, for it 
is fitting that thou shouldst have fear and dread before fighting with 
Ferdiad. For unlike to all whom it fell to fight and contend with thee 
on the Cattle-Raid of Cooley on this occasion is Ferdiad son of Daman 
son of Daire, for he has a horny skin about him in battle against a 
man, a belt, equally strong, victorious in battle, and neither points nor 
edges are reddened upon it in the hour of strife and anger. For he is 
the fury of the lion, and the bursting of wrath, and the blow of doom, 
and the wave that drowns foes." 

"Speak not thus!" cried Cu Chulainn, "for I swear by my arms of 
valor, the oath that my people swear, that every limb and every joint 
will be as a pliant rush in the bed of a river under the point of the 
sword, if he show himself to me on the ford! Truly I am here," said 
Cu Chulainn, "checking and staying four of the five grand provinces of 
Erin from Monday at Samain till the beginning of spring, and I have 
not left my post for a night's disport, through stoutly opposing the men 
of Erin on the Cattle-Raid of Cooley. And in all this time, I have not 
put foot in retreat before any one man nor before a multitude, and 
methinks just as little will I turn in flight before him." 

And Cu Chulainn reached the ford. Ferdiad waited on the south side 
of the ford; Cu Chulainn stood on the north side. Ferdiad bade wel- 
come to Cu Chulainn. "Welcome is thy coming, O Cu Chulainn!" said 

"Truly spoken has seemed thy welcome always till now," answered 
Cu Chulainn; "but to-day I put no more trust in it. And, O Ferdiad," 
said Chu Chulainn, "it were fitter for me to bid thee welcome than 
that thou should'st welcome me; for it is thou that art come to the 
land and the province wherein I dwell; and it is not fitting for thee to 
come to contend and do battle with me, but it were fitter for me to go 
to contend and do battle with thee. For before thee in flight are my 
women and my boys and my youths, my steeds and my troops of horses, 
my droves, my flocks and my herds of cattle." 

"Good, O Cu Chulainn," said Ferdiad; "what has ever brought thee 
out to contend and do battle with me? For when we were together with 
Scathach and with Uathach and with Aife, thou wast not a man worthy 

64 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

of ine, for thou wast my serving-man, even for arming my spear and 
dressing my bed." 

"That was indeed true," answered Cu Chulainn; "because of my 
youth and my littleness did I so much for thee, but this is by no means 
my mood this day. For there is not a warrior in the world I would not 
drive off this day in the field of battle and combat." 

It was not long before they met in the middle of the ford. And then 
it was that each of them cast sharp-cutting reproaches at the other, 
renouncing his friendship. 

"Too long are we now in this way," said Ferdiad; "and what arms 
shall we resort to to-day, O Cu Chulainn?" 

"With thee is thy choice of weapons this day until night-time," 
answered Cu Chulainn, "for thou are he that first didst reach the 

"Rememberest thou at all," asked Ferdiad, "the choice of arms we 
wont to practice with Scathach and with Uathach and with Aife?" 

"Indeed, and I do remember," answered Cu Chulainn. 

"If thou rememberest, let us begin with them." 

They betook them to do their choicest deeds of arms. They took 
upon them two equally-matched shields for feats, and their eight-edged 
targets for feats, and their eight small darts, and their eight straight 
swords, with ornaments of walrus-tooth, and their eight lesser ivoried 
spears which flew from them and to them like bees on a day of fine 

They cast no weapons that struck not. Each of them was busy cast- 
ing at the other with those missiles from morning's early twilight until 
noon at mid-day, and while they overcame their various feats with the 
bosses and hollows of their feat-shields. However great the excellence 
of the throwing on either side, equally great was the excellence of the 
defense, so that during all that time neither bled nor reddened the 

"Let us cease now from this bout of arms, O Cu Chulainn," said 
Ferdiad; "for it is not by such our decision will come." 

"Yea, surely, let us cease, if the time hath come," answered Cu Chu- 

Then they ceased. They threw their feat-tackle from them into the 
hands of their charioteers. 

"To what weapons shall we resort next, O Cu Chulainn?" asked 

Heroes of Old 65 

"Thine is the choice of weapons until nightfall," answered Cu Chu- 
lainn, "for thou art he who didst first reach the ford." 

"Let us begin, then," said Ferdiad, "with our straight-cut smooth- 
hardened throwing-spears, with cords of full-hard flax on them." 
"Aye, let us begin then," assented Cu Chulainn. 
Then they took on them two hard shields, equally strong. They fell 
to their straight-cut, smooth-hardened spears with cords of full-hard 
flax on them. Each of them was engaged in casting at the other with 
the spears from the middle of noon till yellowness came over the sun at 
the hour of evening's sundown. However great the excellence of the 
defense, equally great was the excellence of the throwing on either 
side, so that each of them bled and reddened and wounded the other 
during that time. 

"Wouldst thou fain make a truce, O Cu Chullain?" asked Ferdiad. 
"It would please me," replied Cu Chullain; "for whoso begins 
with arms has the right to desist." 

"Let us leave off from this now, O Cu Chulainn," said Ferdiad. 
"Aye, let us leave off, if the time has come," answered Cu Chulainn. 
So they ceased; and they threw their arms from them into the hands 
of their charioteers. 

Thereupon each of them went toward the other in the middle of 
the ford, and each of them put his hand on the other's neck and gave 
him three kisses in remembrance of his fellowship and friendship. 
Their horses were in one and the same paddock that night, and their 
charioteers at one and the same fire; and their charioteers made ready 
a litter-bed of fresh rushes for them with pillows for wounded men 
on them. Then came healing and curing folk to heal and cure them, 
and they laid healing herbs and grasses and a curing charm on their 
cuts and stabs, their gashes and many wounds. Of every healing herb 
and grass and curing charm that was brought from the fairy-mounds 
of Erin to Cu Chulainn and was applied to the cuts and stabs, to the 
gashes and many wounds of Cu Chulainn, a like portion thereof he 
sent across the ford westward to Ferdiad, to put on his wounds and his 
pools of gore, so that the men of Erin should not have it to say, should 
Ferdiad fall at his hands, it was more than his share of care had been 
given to him. 

Of every food and of every savory, soothing and strong drink that 
was brought by the men of Erin to Ferdiad, a like portion thereof he 
sent over the ford northwards to Cu Chulainn; for the purveyors of 
Ferdiad were more numerous than the purveyors of Cu Chulainn. All 
the men of Erin were purveyors to_Ferdiad, to the end that he might 
keep Cu Chulainn off from them. But only the inhabitants of Mag 

66 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

Breg were purveyors to Cu Chulainn. They were wont to come daily, 
that is, every night, to converse with him. 

They bided there that night. Early on the morrow they arose and 
went to the ford of combat. 

"To what weapons shall we resort on this day, O Ferdiad?" asked 
Cu Chulainn. 

"Thine is the choosing of weapons till nighttime," Ferdiad made 
answer, "because it was I had my choice of weapons yesterday." 

"Let us take, then," said Cu Chulainn, "to our great, well-tempered 
lances to-day, for we think that the thrusting will bring nearer the 
decisive battle to-day than did the casting of yesterday. Let our horses 
be brought to us and our chariots yoked, to the end that we engage in 
combat over our horses and chariots on this day." 

"Good, let us do so," Ferdiad assented. 

Thereupon they took full-firm broad-shields on them for that day. 
They took to their great, well-tempered lances on that day. Either of 
them began to pierce and to drive, to throw and to press down the 
other, from early morning's twilight till the hour of evening's close. If 
k were the wont of birds in flight to fly through the bodies of men, 
they could have passed through their bodies on that day and carried 
away pieces of blood and flesh through their wounds and their sores 
into the clouds and the air all around. And when the hour of evening's 
close was come, their horses were spent and the drivers were wearied, 
and they themselves, the hero warriors of valor, were exhausted. 

"Let us give over now, O Ferdiad," said Cu Chulainn, "for our 
horses are spent and our drivers tired, and when they are exhausted, 
why should we too not be exhausted?" And in this manner he spoke, 
and uttered these words at that place: 

We need not our chariots break — 
This, a struggle fit for giants. 
Place the hobbles on the steeds, 
Now that the din of arms is overl 

"Yea, we will cease, if the time has come," replied Ferdiad. They 
ceased then. They threw their arms away from them into the hands of 
their charioteers. Each of them came towards his fellow. Each laid his 
hand on the other's neck and gave him three kisses. Their horses were 
in the one pen that night, and their charioteers at one fire . . . etc. 

They abode there that night. Early on the morrow they arose and 
repaired to the ford of combat. Cu Chulainn marked an evil mien and 
a dark mood that day beyond every other on Ferdiad. 

Heroes of Old 67 

"It is evil thou appeareast to-day, O Ferdiad," said Cu Chulainn; 
"thy hair has become dark to-day, and thine eye has grown drowsy and 
thine upright form and thy features and thy gait have gone from thee!" 

"Truly not for fear nor for dread of thee has that happened to me 
to-day," answered Ferdiad; "for there is not in Erin this day a warrior 
I could not repel!" 

"Alas, O Ferdiad," said Cu Chulainn, "a pity it is for thee to oppose 
thy fosterbrother and comrade and friend on the counsel of any 
woman in the world!" 

"A pity it is, O Cu Chulainn," Ferdiad responded. "But, should I 
part without a struggle with thee, I should be in ill repute forever with 
Medb and with the nobles of the four great provinces of Erin." 

"A pity it is, O Ferdiad," said Cu Chulainn; "not on the counsel of 
all the men and women of the world would I desert thee or would do 
thee harm. And almost would it make a clot of gore of my heart to be 
combating with thee!" 

"How much soever thou findest fault with me to-day," said Ferdiad, 
"for my ill-boding mien and evil doing, it will be as an offset to my 
prowess." And then he said, "To what weapons shall we resort to-day?" 

"With thyself is the choice of weapons to-day until night-time come," 
replied Cu Chulainn, "for it was I that chose on the day gone by." 

"Let us resort, then," said Ferdiad, "to our heavy, hard-siniting 
swords this day, for we trust that the smiting each other will bring us 
nearer to the decision of battle to-day than did our piercing each other 

"Let us go, then, by all means," responded Cu Chulainn. 

Then they took two full-great long-shields upon them for that day. 
They turned to their heavy, hard-smiting swords. Each of them fell to 
strike and to hew, to lay low and cut down, to slay and undo his fellow, 
till as large as the head of a month-old child was each lump and each 
cut, each clutter and each clot of gore that each of them took from the 
shoulders and thighs and shoulderblades of the other. 

Each of them was engaged in smiting the other in this way from 
the twilight of the early morning till the hour of evening's close. "Let 
us leave off from this now, O Cu Chulainn!" said Ferdiad. 

"Aye, let us leave off if the hour is come," said Cu Chulainn. 

They parted then, and threw their arms away from them into the 
hands of their charioteers. Though in comparison it had been the 
meeting of two happy, blithe, cheerful, joyful men, their parting that 

68 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

night was of two that were sad, sorrowful, and full of suffering. They 
parted without a kiss, a blessing, or any other sign of friendship, and 
their servants disarmed the steeds and the heroes; no healing nor cur- 
ing herbs were sent from Cu Chulainn to Ferdiad that night, and no 
food nor drink was brought from Ferdiad to him. Their horses were 
not in the same paddock that night. Their charioteers were not at the 
same fire. 

They passed that night there. It was then that Ferdiad arose early 
on the morrow and went alone to the ford of combat, and dauntless 
and vengeful and mighty was the man that went thither that day, 
Ferdiad the son of Daman. For he knew that that day would be the 
decisive day of the battle and combat; and he knew that one or the 
other of them would fall there that day, or that they both would fall. 
It was then he donned his battle-garb of battle and fight and combat. 
He put his silken, glossy trews with its border of speckled gold next 
to his white skin. Over this, outside, he put his brown-leathern, well- 
sewed kilt. Outside of this he put a huge, goodly flagstone, the size of a 
millstone, the shallow stone of adamant which he had brought from 
Africa, and which neither points nor edges could pierce. He put his 
solid, very deep, iron kilt of twice molten iron over the huge goodly 
flag as large as a millstone, through fear and dread of the gae bulga on 
that day. About his head he put his crested war-cap of battle and fight 
and combat, whereon were forty carbuncle-gems beautifully adorning 
it and studded with red-enamel and crystal and rubies and with shin- 
ing stones of the Eastern world. His angry, fierce-striking spear he 
seized in his right hand. On his left side he hung his curved battle- 
sword, which would cut a hair against the stream with its keenness and 
sharpness, with its gold pommel and its rounded hilt of red gold. On 
the arch-slope of his back he slung his massive, fine, buffalo shield of 
a warrior whereon were fifty bosses, wherein a boar could be shown in 
each of its bosses, apart from the great central boss of red gold. Ferdiad 
performed divers brilliant manifold marvellous feats on high that day, 
unlearned of any one before, neither from foster-mother nor from 
foster-father, neither from Scathach nor from Uathach nor from Aife, 
but he found them of himself that day in the face of Cu Chulainn. 

Cu Chulainn likewise came to the ford, and he beheld the various, 
brilliant, manifold, wonderful feats that Ferdiad performed on high. 
"Thou seest yonder, O Loeg my master, the divers bright, numerous, 
marvellous feats that Ferdiad performs one after the other, and there- 
fore, O Loeg," cried Cu Chulainn, "if defeat be my lot this day, do 
thou prick me on and taunt me and speak evil to me, so that the more 
my spirit and anger shall rise in me. If, however, before me his defeat 

Heroes of Old 69 

takes place, say thou so to me and praise me and speak me fair, to the 
end that greater may be my courage." 

"It certainly shall be done so, if need be, O Cucuc," Loeg answered. 

Then Cu Chulainn, too, girded on his war-harness of battle and 
fight and combat about him, and performed all kinds of splendid, 
manifold, marvellous feats on high that day which he had not learned 
from anyone before, neither with Scathach nor with Uathach nor with 

Ferdiad observed those feats, and he knew they would be plied 
against him in turn. 

"What weapons shall we resort to to-day?" asked Cu Chulainn. 

"With thee is the choice of weapons till night-time," Ferdiad re- 

"Let us go to the Feat of the Ford, then," said Cu Chulainn. 

"Aye, let us do so," answered Ferdiad. Albeit Ferdiad spoke that, 
he deemed it the most grievous thing whereto he could go, for he knew 
that Cu Chulainn used to destroy every hero and every battle-soldier 
who fought with him in the Feat of the Ford. 

Great indeed was the deed that was done on the ford that day. The 
two horses, the two champions, the two chariot-fighters of the west of 
Europe, the two bright torches of valor of the Gael, the two hands of 
dispensing favor and of giving rewards and jewels and treasures in the 
west of the northern world, the two veterans of skill and the two keys 
of bravery to the Gael, the man for quelling the variance and discord 
of Connacht, the man for guarding the cattle and herds of Ulster, to 
be brought together in an encounter as from afar, set to slay or to kill 
each other, through the sowing of dissension and the incitement of 
Ailill and Medb. 

Each of them was busy hurling at the other in those deeds of arms 
from early morning's gloaming till the middle of noon. When midday 
came, the rage of the men became wild, and each drew nearer to the 

Thereupon Cu Chulainn gave one spring once from the bank of the 
ford till he stood upon the boss of Ferdiad son of Daman's shield, 
seeking to reach his head and to strike it from above over the rim of 
the shield. Straightway Ferdiad gave the shield a blow with his left 
elbow, so that Cu Chulainn went from him like a bird onto the brink 
of the ford. Again Cu Chulainn sprang from the brink of the ford, 
so that he lighted upon the boss of Ferdiad's shield, that he might reach 
his head and strike it over the rim of the shield from above. Ferdiad 
gave the shield a thrust with his left knee, so that Cu Chulainn went 
from him like an infant onto the bank of the ford. 

70 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

Loeg espied that. "Woe, then, O Cu Chulainn," cried Loeg, "it seems 
to me the battle-warrior that is against thee hath shaken thee as a 
woman shakes her child. He has washed thee as a cup is washed in the 
tub. He hath ground thee as a mill grinds soft malt. He hath pierced 
thee as a tool bores through an oak. He hath bound thee as the bind- 
weed binds the trees. He hath pounced on thee as a hawk pounces on 
little birds, so that no more hast thou right or title or claim to valor 
or skill in arms till the very day of doom and of life, thou little imp 
of an elf-man!" 

Thereat for the third time Cu Chulainn arose with the speed of the 
wind, and the swiftness of a swallow, and the dash of a dragon, and the 
strength of a lion into the clouds of the air, till he alighted on the boss 
of the shield of Ferdiad son of Daman, so as to reach his head that he 
might strike it from above over the rim of his shield. Then it was that 
the warrior gave the shield a violent powerful shake, so that Cu Chu- 
lainn flew from it into the middle of the ford, the same as if he had not 
sprung at all. 

It was then the first distortion of Cu Chulainn took place, so that a 
swelling and inflation filled him like breath in a bladder, until he 
made a dreadful, many-colored, wonderful bow of himself, so that as 
big as a giant or a sea-man was the hugely-brave warrior towering 
directly over Ferdiad. 

Such was the closeness of the combat they made, that their heads en- 
countered above and their feet below and their hands in the middle 
over the rims and bosses of their shields. 

Such was the closeness of the combat they made, that their shields 
burst and split from their rims to their centers. 

Such was the closeness of the combat they made, that their spears 
bent and turned and shivered from their tips to their rivets. 

Such was the closeness of the combat they made, that the boccanach 
and the bannanach (the puck-faced sprites and the white-faced 
sprites) and the spirits of the glens and the uncanny beings of the air 
screamed from the rims of their shields and from the guards of their 
swords and from the tips of their spears. 

Such was the closeness of the combat they made, that the steeds of 
the Gael broke loose affrighted and plunging with madness and fury, 
so that their chains and their shackles, their traces and their tethers 
snapped, and the women and children and the undersized, the weak 
and the madmen among the men of Erin broke out through the camp 
south westward. 

At that time they were at the edge-feat of the swords. It was then 
Ferdiad caught Cu Chulainn in an unguarded moment, and he gave 

Heroes of Old 71 

him a thrust with his tuck-hilted blade, so that he buried it in his 
breast, and his blood fell into his belt, till the ford became crimsoned 
with the clotted blood from the battle-warrior's body. Cu Chulainn 
endured it not under Ferdiad's attack, with his death-bringing, heavy 
blows, and his long strokes and his mighty middle slashes at him. 

Then Cu Chulainn bethought him of his friends from the fairymound 
and of his mighty folk who would come and defend him and of his 
scholars to protect him, whenever he would be hard-pressed in the 
combat. It was then that Dolb and Indolb arrived to help and to 
succor their friend, namely Cu Chulainn, and one of them went on 
either side of him and they smote Ferdiad, the three of them, and 
Ferdiad did not perceive the men from the fairy-mound. Then it was 
that Ferdiad felt the onset of the three together smiting his shield 
against him, and thence he called to mind that, when they were with 
Scathach and Uathach, learning together, Dolb and Indolb used to 
come to help Cu Chulainn out of every stress wherein he was. 

Ferdiad spoke; "Not alike are our foster-brothership and our com- 
radeship, O Cu Chulainn." 

"How so, then?" asked Cu Chulainn. 

"Thy friends of the fairy-folk have succored thee, and thou didst 
not disclose them to me before," said Ferdiad. 

"Not easy for me were that," answered Cu Chulainn, "for if the 
magic veil be once revealed to one of the sons of Mil, none of the 
Tuatha De Danann will have power to practice concealment or magic 
And why complainest thou here, O Ferdiad?" said Cu Chulainn; "thou 
hast a horn skin whereby to multiply feats and deeds of arms on me, 
and thou hast not shown me how it is closed or how it is opened." 

[Ferdiad now had the upper hand. But Cu Chulainn called for his 
gae bulga.] 

When Ferdiad saw that his gillie had been thrown and heard the gae 
bulga called for, he thrust his shield down to protect the lower part of 
his body. Cu Chulainn gripped the short spear that was in his hand, 
cast it off the palm of his hand over the rim of the shield and over the 
edge of the corselet and hornskin, so that its farther half was visible 
after piercing Ferdiad's heart in his bosom. Ferdiad gave a thrust of 
his shield upwards to protect the upper part of his body, though it was 
help that came too late. Loeg sent the gae bulga down the stream, and 
Cu Chulainn caught it in the fork of his foot, and when Ferdiad raised 
his shield Cu Chulainn threw the gae bulga as far as he could cast 
underneath at Ferdiad, so that it passed through the strong thick, iron 
apron of wrought iron, and brake in three parts the huge, goodly stone 

72 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

the size of a millstone, so that it cut its way through the body's protec- 
tion into him, till every joint and every limb was filled with its barbs. 
"Ah, that blow suffices," sighed Ferdiad. "I am fallen of thatl But, 
yet one thing more: mightily didst thou drive with thy right foot. And 
it was not fair of thee for me not to fall by thy hand." 

Thereupon Cu Chulainn hastened towards Ferdiad and clasped his 
two arms about him, and bore him with all his arms and his armor 
and his dress northwards over the ford, so that it would be with his face 
to the north of the ford, in Ulster, the triumph took place and not to 
the west of the ford with the men of Erin. Cu Chulainn laid Ferdiad 
there on the ground, and a cloud and a faint and a swoon came over 
Cu Chulainn there by the head of Ferdiad. Loeg espied it and the men 
of Erin all arose for the attack upon him. 

"Come, O Cucuc," cried Loeg; "arise now from thy trance, for the 
men of Erin will now come to attack us, and it is not single combat 
they will allow us, now that Ferdiad son of Daman son of Daire is 
fallen by thee." 

"What availeth it me to arise, O gillie," said Cu Chulainn, "now 
that this one is fallen by my hand? . . . Ah, Ferdiad, greatly have the 
men of Erin deceived and abandoned thee, to bring thee to contend 
and do battle with me. For no easy thing is to contend and do battle 
with me on the Cattle-Raid of Cooky!" 

"Good, O Cucuc," said Loeg, "let us leave this ford now; too long 
are we herel" 

"Aye, let us leave it, O my master Loeg," replied Cu Chulainn. "But 
every combat and battle I have fought seems a game and a sport to 
me compared with the combat and battle of Ferdiad." 

Cu Chullain's Lament Over Ferdiad 

Play was each, pleasure each, 
Until Ferdiad faced the beach; 
Dear that pillar of pure gold 

From Bards of the Gael and Gall, Examples of the Poetic Literature of Erinn, 
t» George Sigerson, p. 119. Charles Scribner's Sons. New York. 1907. 

Heroes of Old 73 

Who fell cold beside the ford. 
Hosts of warriors felt his sword, 
First in battle's breach. 

Play was each, pleasure each, 
Until Ferdiad faced the beach; 
Lion fiery, fierce and bright, 
Wave whose might no thing withstands, 
Sweeping, with the shrinking sands, 
Horror o'er the beach. 

Play was each, pleasure each, 
Until Ferdiad faced the beach; 
Loved Ferdiad, dear to me; 
I shall dree his death for aye — 
Yesterday a mountain, he, 
But a shade to-day. 

Deirdre of the Sorrows 

The nobles of Ulster were feasting in the house of Felimy, the son 
of Dall, the rymer of King Conor. Then was the wife of Felimy busied 
in attendance on her guests though shortly to become a mother. Cups 
and jests go round, and the house resounded with the revel. Suddenly 
the infant screamed in the womb of its mother, and the bitter pains of 
childbirth fell upon her. Then arose Cathbad the Druid, and prophe- 
sied, as she was borne away— "Under thy girdle, O woman, screamed a 
woman child, fair-haired, bright-eyed, beautiful— a virgin who will 
bring sorrow on Ulster — a birth fatal for princes — a child of disaster: 
let her name be Deirdre." Then sat they all in amaze till the infant was 
brought in; and it was a female child; and Cathbad looked upon it, 
and again prophesied — 

When Cathbad ceased, the nobles present with one voice cried out 
that the child should not live; but Conor taking the child from 
Felimy, commanded that she should be cared for by his own people; 
and when the baby was nursed, he sent her to be brought up in a 

From Hibernian Nights' Entertainment, by Sir Samuel Ferguson, pp. 16-31. P. M. 
Haverty, Publishers. New York. 1872. 

74 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

lonely fort, where she should never see man till he might make her his 
own wife. Here Deirdre dwelt till she had grown to be the most beauti- 
ful maiden in all Ireland; and never yet had seen a man, save one aged 
and morose tutor. But on a certain day in winter, when her tutor was 
slaying a calf before the gate of the fort, to prepare food for her, she 
saw a raven drinking the blood from the snow. Then said she to her 
nurse, "Lovely, in truth, were the man marked with these colors — body 
like the snow, cheeks like the ruddy blood, and hair black as the wing 
of the raven — ah, Lewara, are there such men in the world without?" 
"Many such," said Lewara, "but the fairest of all is in the king's house 
— Naisi, the son of Usnach." "Alas!" cried Deirdre, "if I get not sight of 
that man I shall die!" Then her nurse plotted how she should bring 
Naisi and Deirdre together. 

Now on a certain day, Naisi was sitting in the midst of the plain of 
Eman, playing on a harp. Sweet, in truth, was the music of the sons 
of Usnach. The cattle listening to it, milked ever two-thirds more than 
was their wont; and all pain and sorrow failed not to depart from 
whatsoever man or woman heard the strains of that melody. Great also 
was their prowess. When each set his back to the other, all Conor's 
province had been unable to overcome them. They were fleet as hounds 
in the chase: they slew deer with their speed. 

Now, then, as Naisi sat singing on the plain of Eman, he perceived 
a maiden approaching him. She held down her head as she came near 
him, but passed without speaking. "Gentle is the damsel who passeth 
by," said Naisi. Then the maiden looking up, replied, "Damsels may 
well be gentle where there are no youths." Then Naisi knew that it 
was Deirdre, and great dread fell upon him. "The king of the province 
is betrothed to thee, oh damsel," he said. "I love him not," she replied, 
"he is an aged man: I would rather love a youth like thee." "Say not so, 
oh, damsel," said Naisi; "the king is a better spouse than the king's 
servant." "Thou sayest so," replied Deirdre, "that thou mayest avoid 
me." Then plucking a rose from a briar, she flung the flower to 
him, and said, "Now art thou ever disgraced if thou rejectest me." 
"Depart from me, I pray then, damsel," said Naisi. "Nay," replied 
Deirdre, "if thou dost not take me to be thy wife, thou art dis- 
honored before all the men of thy country: and this I know from 
my nurse Lewara." Then Naisi said no more; and Deirdre took his 
harp, and sat beside him, playing sweetly. When the men of Ulster 
heard the delightful sound, they were enchanted. But the sons of 
Usnach rushed forth, and came running to where their brother sat, 
and Deirdre with him. "Alas," they cried, "what hast thou done, O 
brother? Is not this the damsel fated to ruin Ulster?" "Ah, me!" said 

Heroes of Old 75 

Naisi. "I am disgraced before the men of Erin for ever, if I take her 
not after that which she hath done." Then he told them the tale of 
what had happened. "Evil will come of it," said the brothers. "I care 
not," said Naisi. "I had rather be in misfortune than in dishonor. We 
will fly with her to another country." 

They then took counsel together, and for the love they bore to Naisi, 
resolved to accompany him wheresoever he might go. So that night they 
departed, taking with them three times fifty men of might, and three 
times fifty women, and three times fifty greyhounds, and three times 
fifty attendants; and Naisi took Deirdre to be his wife. Then being pur- 
sued by Conor, who was greatly enraged at the loss of his betrothed 
spouse, they wandered hither and thither over Erin, in constant danger. 
... At length, weary of wandering through Erin, they came into the 
realm of Alba, and made their home in the midst of a wild therein. 

There, when the chase of the mountain failed them, they fell upon 
the herds and cattle of the men of Alba; and the fame of their exploits 
reaching the ears of the king of that country, they were received into 
friendship and allegiance by him. But upon a certain day, when the 
king's steward made a circuit of the palace, early in the morning, he 
saw Naisi and Deirdre asleep in their tent. Then said he to the king, 
"O, king, we have at last found a meet wife for you. There is in the 
bed of Naisi, son of Usnach, a woman worthy of the sovereign of the 
west of the world; let Naisi be slain, O king, and marry thou the 
woman thyself." "Nay," said the king, "do thou first solicit her in 
private." It is done so. Deirdre informs Naisi of all this; and, more- 
over, how the son of Usnach would be put fonvard into danger till 
he should be slain, that the king might wed her being left without her 
husband. "Away, therefore," she said, "for if we depart not to-night, 
you will be slain to-morrow." Then the sons of Usnach departed from 
the palace of the king of Alba, and went into a distant island of the 

Upon a certain day, King Conor was feasting with the nobles in the 
mansion of Emania, and there was sweet music and delight among all 
present. And after the bards had sung, in delightful measures, their 
branches of kindred and boughs of genealogy, King Conor raised his 
royal voice and said: "I would know of you, princes and nobles, 
whether you have ever seen a feast better than this, or a mansion better 
than the mansion of Emania?" "We have seen none," they replied. 
"And again," said Conor, "I would fain know of you, if there be any- 
thing whatsoever here wanting," "Nothing," they replied. "Say not so," 
said Conor, "I well know what is here wanting; the presence of the 
three renowned youths, the martial lights of the Gael, the three noble 

76 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

sons of Usnach, Naisi, Aini, and Ardan. Alas, that they should be 
absent from us for the like of any woman in the world! Hard bested 
they are, and outlawed in an island of the ocean, fighting with the men 
of the king of Alba. Sons of a king indeed they are, and well could 
they defend the sovereignty of Ulster — I would they were with us." 
Then the nobles replied and said: "Had we dared to speak our 
thoughts, this is what we would ourselves have said; and moreover that 
had we but the three sons of Usnach in the country, Ulster alone would 
not be inferior to all the rest of Erin: for, men of might they be, and 
lions for valor and prowess." "Let us then," said Conor, "dispatch 
messengers to Alba, to the island of Loch Etive, to the fastness of the 
clan Usnach, to solicit their return." "Who can give sufficient surety of 
safety to induce the sons of Usnach to come into thy kingdom?" asked 
they. "There are three only of all my nobles," said Conor, "on whose 
guaranty against my anger, the sons of Usnach will trust themselves; 
and they are Fergus, Cuchullan, and Conell Carnach; one of these will 
I send upon this message." 

Then taking Conell Carnach into a place apart, Conor asked him 
what he would do if he should send him for the sons of Usnach, and 
that they should come to harm while under his pledge of safe conduct. 
"Whomsoever I might find injuring them," said Conell Carnach, "on 
him would I straightway inflict the bitter pain of death." "Then can 
I perceive," said Conor, "that dear to you I myself am not." A like 
question asked Conor of Cuchullan, and of him received a like answer. 
Then called he apart Fergus, the son of Roy, and in like manner ques- 
tioned him; this said Fergus in answer. "Thine own blood I shed not; 
but whomsoever else I should find doing injury to those in my safe 
conduct him would I not permit to live." 

"Then," said Conor, "I perceive thou lovest me. Go thou to the clan 
Usnach, and bring them to me on thy guaranty; and return thou by 
the way of Dun Barach, but let not the sons of Usnach tarry to eat 
meat with any till they come to the feast I shall have prepared for 
their welcome in Emania. Give me thy pledge to do this." Then Fergus 
bound himself by solemn vow to do the king's commands, and so re- 
turning together, they joined the other nobles and bore away that night 
in feasting and delight. The king, however, called Barach into a place 
apart, and asked him had he a feast prepared at his mansion? "I have 
a feast prepared in Dun Barach," said Barach, "to which thou and thy 
nobles are ever welcome." "Let not Fergus then depart from thy man- 
sion," said Conor, "without partaking of that feast on his return from 
Alba." "He shall feast with me for three days," replied Barach, "for 
we are brothers of the Red Branch, and he is under vow not to refuse 

Heroes of Old 77 

my hospitality." Next morning Fergus, with his two sons, Buini Borb 
and Ulan Finn, and Cailon the shield-bearer, bearing his shield, de- 
parted from Emania for pleasant Alba. They sailed across the sea until 
they came to Loch Etive, to the island of the sons of Usnach. Here 
dwelt the clan Usnach in green hunting booths along the shore. 

And Deirdre and Naisi sat together in their tent, and Conor's polished 
chess-board between them, and they played at chess. Now when Fergus 
came into the harbor, he sent forth the loud cry of a mighty man of 
chase. And Naisi hearing the cry, said, "I hear the call of a man of 
Erin." "That was not the call of a man of Erin," replied Deirdre, "but 
the call of a man of Alba." Then again Fergus shouted a second time. 
"That was surely the cry of a man of Erin," said Naisi. "Nay, 'twas not, 
indeed," replied Deirdre; "let us play on." Then, again, Fergus shouted 
a third time, and Naisi knew that it was the cry of Fergus, and he said, 
"If the son of in existence, I hear his hunting shout from the 
loch; go forth, Ardan, my brother, and give our kinsman welcome." 
"Alas!" said Deirdre. "I knew the call of Fergus from the first." "Why 
didst thou then conceal it, my queen?" said Naisi. Then Deirdre an- 
swered, "Last night I had a dream. Three birds came to us from the 
plains of Emania, having each a drop of honey in its beak; and they 
departed from us, having each a drop of blood in place of the drop of 
honey." "And how dost thou read that dream, O princess?" said Naisi. 
"That Fergus cometh with false messages of peace from Conor," she 
replied, "for sweeter is not honey than the message of peace of the 
false man." "Nay, think not so," said Naisi; "Fergus is long in the port: 
go, Ardan, meet him quickly, and guide him to our tent." Then Ardan 
went and welcomed Fergus, and embraced him and his sons, and 
kissed them and demanded of them the news from Erin. "Good news," 
said Fergus. "Conor hath sent us to be your warranty of safe conduct, 
if you will return to Emania." "There is no need for them to go 
thither," said Deirdre, "greater is their own sway in Alba than the sway 
of Conor in Erin." "To be in one's native land is better than all else," 
said Fergus, "for of little worth are power or prosperity to a man if he 
seeth not each day the land that gave him birth." "True, it is," said 
Naisi, "dearer to me is Erin than Alba, though in Alba I should enjoy 
more fortunate estate than in Erin." "Put your trust in me," said 
Fergus, "I pledge myself for your safe conduct." "Let us go then," said 
Naisi, "we will go under Fergus's safe conduct to our native land." 

They whiled away that night until the dawning of next day; then 
went they down to their ships and set sail across the sea. 

78 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

By this time they had reached the port of Dun Barach; and Barach 
himself meeting them upon the shore, welcomed Fergus and his sons, 
and the sons of Usnach, and Deirdre also, with kisses eager and affec- 
tionate. Then Barach said to Fergus — "Tarry, and partake of my feast; 
for I will not let thee part from me for three days without breaking 
thy vow of brotherhood and hospitality." When Fergus heard this, he 
became crimson red, for anger, from head to foot, and thus he said — 
"Thou has done ill, O Barach, to ask me to thy feast, knowing, as thou 
dost, that I am bounden to Conor not to let the sons of Usnach, who 
are under my safe-conduct, tarry night or day for entertainment from 
another, till they reach Emania, where he hath his banquet prepared 
to welcome them." "I care not," said Barach, "I lay thee under the ban 
of our order if thou rejectest my hospitality." Then Fergus asked of 
Naisi what he should do? and Deirdre answered — "Thou must either 
forsake Barach or the sons of Usnach: it were truly more meet to for- 
sake thy feast than thy friends who arc under thy protection." "Neither 
Barach nor the sons of Usnach will I forsake," said Fergus; "for I will 
remain with Barach, and my two sons, Ulan Finn and red Buini Borb, 
shall be your escort and pledge of safe conduct, in my stead, to 
Emania." "We care not for thy safe conduct," said Naisi; "our own 
hands have ever been our pledge of protection"; and he departed from 
Fergus in great wrath; and Ardan, and Ainli, and Deirdre, and the two 
sons of Fergus followed him, and they left Fergus sad and gloomy 
behind them. 

Then said Deirdre — "I would counsel that we go to the isle of 
Rathlin, and abide there till Fergus shall be free to accompany us; for 
I fear this safe conduct will not long protect us." Then did Naisi and 
the sons of Fergus reproach her, and they said they would not take that 
counsel, and go forward to Emania even as they were. "Alas!" said 
Deirdre; "would that I had never left the long-grassed Alba!" But when 
they had come to Fincairn watch-tower, in the mountain of Fuadh, 
Naisi perceived that Deirdre did not accompany them, for sleep had 
fallen upon her; and on returning he found her in a deep slumber in 
the valley; and when she was awakened, she arose in grief and fear. 
"Alas!" she said, "I dread treachery: I had a dream, and in my vision 
I beheld Ulan Finn fighting for us, and Buini Borb idle, and his head 
on Buini Borb, and Ulan Finn's trunk headless." "Thy lips are lovely, 
but thy prophecy, nought save evil," said Naisi. "Let the vengeance of 
thy lips fall on the stranger. I fear not treachery. Let us on." And so 
they went on till they came to Ardsallagh; and then Deirdre said to 
Naisi — "I see a cloud over Emania, and it is a cloud of blood. I counsel 
you, O sons of Usnach, go not to Emania without Fergus; but let us go 

Heroes of Old 79 

to Dundalgan, to our cousin Cuchullan, till Fergus shall have fulfilled 
his obligation to Barach." "I fear not," said Naisi; "let us proceed." 
Then again Deirdre cried — "O! Naisi, look at the cloud over Emania: 
it is a cloud of blood; gore drops fall from its red edges. Ah me! go not 
to Emania to-night; let us go to Dundalgan — let us take shelter with 
Cuchullan." "I fear not," said Naisi; "I will not hear thy counsel; let 
us proceed." "Grandson of Roy," said Deirdre, "seldom have we not 
been of one accord before — I and thou, Naisi! This had not been so 
that day when Lewara led me to your seat upon the plain of Emania." 
"I fear not," said Naisi; "let us on!" "Sons of Usnach," again said 
Deirdre, "I have a signal by which to know if Conor designs treachery 
against us. If we be admitted into the mansions of Emania, Conor 
designs not harm toward us; if we be lodged apart, in the mansion of 
the Red Branch, then doth Conor surely meditate us evil." By this they 
were arrived before the gates of Emania. Then Naisi knocked at the 
gate, and the door-keeper demanded who was without? "Clan Usnach 
and Deirdre," replied Naisi. Then were they conducted towards the 
house of the Red Branch, by Conor's orders. " 'Twere better to take 
my counsel even yet," said Deirdre, "for evil is surely now designed for 
us." "We will not do so," said Ulan Finn, the son of Fergus; "coward- 
liness hath never been known of the sons of my father. I and Buini 
Borb shall go with you to the Red Branch." Then moved they on to 
the house and entered it; and attendants brought them rich viands and 
sweet wines, until all were satisfied and cheerful, save only Deirdre and 
the sons of Usnach; for they partook not of much food or drink, being 
weary from their journey, and in dread of their lives. Then said Naisi, 
"bring hither the chessboard, that we may play": and he and Deirdre 
played upon the polished chessboard. 

And now when Conor knew that Deirdre was in the Red Branch, he 
could not rest at the feast, but said — "Whom shall I find that will do 
my errand to the Red Branch, to tell me whether her beauty lives upon 
Deirdre; for, if her own face and figure live upon her, there is not in 
the world a woman more beautiful than she." Then said Lewara, the 
nurse, "I will do thine errand." For she dearly loved both Naisi and 
Deirdre, whom she, at first, had brought together. Then Lewara, com- 
ing to the Red Branch, found Naisi and Deirdre with the polished 
board between them, playing at chess; and she gave them kisses eager 
and affectionate, and said, "Alas! my children, you do not well to spend 
your time in games and pleasure, while Conor cannot rest for the 
thoughts of the treachery he designs you. Wo is me, this night will be 
a black night for the clan Usnach, if ye bar not fast your doors and 
windows, and fight not courageously, O sons of Fergus, and manfully 

80 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

defend your charge till Fergus himself cometh." Then shed she bitter 
tears, and returned to the mansion of Emania; and Conor asked what 
tidings. "Tidings of good and of evil," replied Lewara; "and my good 
tidings are, that the sons of Usnach are three of the most valiant and 
noble; of the most excellent form and aspect of all the men in the 
world; and that, with their help, thou mayest henceforth sway all Erin, 
if thou wilt; and my evil tidings are, that she, who at her departure 
from Erin was the fairest of women, is now bereft of her own form and 
aspect, and is lovely and desirable no longer." Then Conor's wrath and 
jealousy abated, and he went on feasting until a second time he 
thought of Deirdre, and he said, "Whom shall I find to bring me true 
tidings from the Red Branch? is there any here will do my errand 
truly?" Then none of the nobles answered; for they feared to abet the 
king, in violating the pledge of Fergus, as they dreaded he now medi- 
tated to do. Then said Conor to one of his people, "Knowest thou who 
slew thy father, O Trendorn?" "Naisi Mac Usnach slew my father, und 
my three brothers," replied Trendorn. "Go thy way, then," said Conor, 
"and bring me true tidings of Deirdre, whether her beauty still live 
upon her; for, if it doth, there is not on the ridge of earth a woman 
lovelier than she." Then Trendorn went to the Red Branch, and found 
one window unfastened, and looked through it, and saw Naisi and 
Deirdre within, and the polished board between them, and they playing. 
And Deirdre said to Naisi, "I see one looking at us through the win- 
dow." Thn Naisi flung the chessman he held in his hand at the spy, 
and dashed his eyes out of the head of Trendorn. And Trendorn went 
to Conor, and told him, and Conor cried aloud, "This man who hath 
maimed my servant would himself be king!" Then asked he, what 
tidings of Deirdre? "Such beauty liveth upon her," said Trendorn, 
"that there is not on the ridge of earth a woman so beautiful." As 
Conor heard this his jealousy and hatred were renewed, and he rose 
from the table in great wrath, and cried that the sons of Usnach had 
sought to slay his servant, and called upon his people to go and assault 
the Red Branch, and bring them forth, that they might be punished. 

Then came the troops of Ulster to the Red Branch, and sent forth 
three dreadful shouts about it, and set fire and flames to the doors and 
windows. And the sons of Usnach, when they heard the shouts, de- 
manded who were without, "Conor and Ulster," cried the troops, and 
shouted fearfully. "Villains," cried Ulan Finn, "would ye break my 
father's pledge?" "Ravishers and villains," cried Conor, "would yc 
abet the seducer of my wife?" "Ah me," said Deirdre, "we are be- 
trayed, and Fergus is a traitor." "If Fergus hath betrayed you," said 
Red Buini Borb, "yet will not I betray you"; and he threw open the 

Heroes of Old 81 

gates, and went forth with his men, and slew thrice fifty men of might 
abroad, and made dreadful confusion among the troops. Then Conor 
demanded who made that havoc of his people, and Buini answered, "I, 
Red Buini Borb, the son of Fergus." "Hold thy hand," said Conor, 
"and I will bestow upon thee the territory of Slieve Fuadh." Then 
Buini Borb held back his hand from the carnage, and demanded, "Wilt 
thou aught else?" "I will make thee mine own prime councillor," re- 
plied Conor; and Buini Borb desisted from the slaughter, and went his 
way. But his territory was made that night a desert; and it is called 
Dalwhiuny to this day, a wild moor on the mountains of Fuadh. When 
Deirdre saw that Buini Borb had deserted them, she said, "Traitor 
father, traitor son: Well knew I that Fergus was a traitor!" "If Fergus 
was a traitor," said Ulan Finn, "yet will not I be a traitor: while liveth 
this small straight sword in my hand, I will not forsake the sons of 
Usnach!" Then Ulan Finn went forth with his men and they made 
three swift onslaughts round about the mansion, and slew thrice an 
hundred men of might abroad, and came in again where Naisi sat 
playing at chess with his brother Ainli, for the sons of Usnach would 
not let their calm hearts be troubled by that alarm. Then taking torches, 
Ulan Finn and his men went forth a second time, and slew their 
men of might abroad, and drove the bearers of the flame and fire from 
around the mansion. Then it was that Conor cried, "Where is my own 
son Fiara Finn?" "I am here, my king," cried Fiara. "As I live," said 
Conor, "it was on the same night that thou and Ulan Finn were born; 
go then and do battle with him manfully. And as he is clad in his 
father's arms, clothe thou thyself in mine. Take Ocean, Flight, and 
Victory — my shield, my spear, and my claymore, and do good battle 
for your father with this son of Fergus." Fiara then arrayed himself in 
his father's noble and bright armour, and went to the Red Branch, and 
did good battle with Illan Finn. They fought a fair fight, stout and 
manly, bitter and bloody, savage and hot, and vehement, and terrible, 
till Illan Finn beat down Fiara, so that he forced him to crouch be- 
neath the shelter of his shield. Then the waves round the blue rim of 
Ocean roared, for it was the nature of Conor's shield that it ever re- 
sounded as with the noise of stormy waves when he who bore it was 
in danger. And the three chief seas of Erin roared with all their waves 
responsive to the shout of Ocean. The wave of Tuath, and the wave of 
Cliona, and the wave of Inver-Rory roared around Erin for the danger 
of Fiara. Conell Carnach sitting on the rock of Sanseverick heard the 
tumult from Loch Rory and the sea, and taking his arms and calling 
his men of might, came towards Emania, where he knew that Conor, 
his sovereign, was in peril. There, on the open field before the mansion 

82 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

of Red Branch, they found Fiara Finn sore pressed by his adversary, 
and, coming behind him, he thrust his sword through the heart of 
Ulan Finn, whom he knew not, for he had not yet beheld his face. 
"Who hath pierced me at my back?" asked Ulan Finn, "when he might 
have had fair battle, face to face, had he sought it?" "Nay, rather, who 
art thou?" said Conell. "Ulan, the son of Fergus," replied Ulan Finn; 
"and art thou Conell Carnach? — Alas, it is even so. Evil is the deed 
thou hast done, Conell, to slay me while defending the clan Usnach, 
who are in the Red Branch under my father's pledge of safe conduct 
from Alba." "By my hand of valour," cried Conell, "this shall not be 
unavenged," and he struck Fiara Finn a sharp stroke, where he stood, 
and lopped away his head from his beard and went thence in great 
wrath and sorrow. The weakness of death then fell darkly upon Ulan, 
and he threw his arms into the mansion, and called to Naisi to fight 
manfully, and expired. 

And now the men of Ulster came again to assault the Red Branch, 
and to set fire and faggots to the doors. Then forth came Ardan and 
his men and put out the fires, and slew three hundred men of might 
abroad, and made sore havoc of Conor's people. Naisi himself came 
forth with his men the last third of the night, and ere day dawn had 
slain two hundred and driven all the troops from around the mansion. 
And at dawn, Conor brought all the men of Ulster, and he and the clan 
Usnach, with their men, joined battle on the plain and fought a fierce 
fight until broad day. And the battle went against the men of Ulster; 
and till the sands of the sea, the leaves of the forest, the dewdrops of 
the meadows, or the stars of heaven be counted, it is not possible to 
tell the number of heads and hands, and lopped limbs of heroes, that 
then lay bare and red from the hands of Naisi and his brothers and 
their people on that plain. Then Naisi came again into the Red Branch 
to Deirdre, and she encouraged him and said: "We will yet escape: 
fight manfully and fear not." Then the sons of Usnach made a phalanx 
of their shields, and spread the links of their joined bucklers around 
Deirdre, and bounding forth like three eagles, swept down upon the 
troops of Conor, making sore havoc of his people in that onslaught. 
Now when Cathbad the Druid saw that the sons of Usnach were bent 
on the destruction of Conor himself, he had recourse to his acts of 
magic; and he cast an enchantment over them, so that their arms fell 
from their hands, and they were taken by the men of Ulster, for the 
spell was like a sea of thick gums about them, and their limbs were 
clogged in it that they could not move. 

Then was there no man in the host of Ulster, that could be found 
who would put the sons of Usnach to death, so loved were they of the 

Heroes of Old 83 

people and nobles. But, in the house of Conor was one called Maini 
Rough Hand, son of the king of Lochlin; and Naisi had slain his 
father and two brothers; and he undertook to be their executioner. So 
the sons of Usnach were there slain: and the men of Ulster, when they 
beheld their death, sent forth three heavy shouts of sorrow and lamen- 
tation. Then Deirdre fell down beside their bodies, wailing and weep- 
ing, and she tore her hair and garments, and bestowed kisses on their 
lifeless lips and bitterly bemoaned them. And a grave was opened for 
them, and Deirdre, standing by it, with her hair dishevelled, and 
shedding tears abundantly, chanted their funeral song. 

The lions of the hill are gone, 
And I am left alone — alone — 
Dig the grave both wide and deep, 
For I am sick, and fain would sleep. 

The falcons of the wood are flown, 
And I am left alone — alone — 
Dig the grave both deep and wide, 
And let us slumber side by side. 

The dragons of the rock are sleeping, 
Sleep that wakes not for our weeping, 
Dig the grave and make it ready, 
Lay me on my true love's bodyl 

The High-Kingship 

The high-kingship of Ireland developed out of the kingship of Tara 
in what is now the county of Meath. The possessors of Tara would have 
been wealthy amongst the early kings, for it is an eminence over a grass 
land that has always been famous for cattle-raising. But Tara had also 
associations that would give its kings prestige. Nearby are the great 
mounds that had been the burial chambers and temples for a Bronze 
Age people. There was the Brugh, or Dwelling of Angus, a divinity 
associated with youth and love. Now, as Professor MacAlister has 

By lhe editoc 

84 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

shown in Tara, a Pagan Sanctuary, its early kings were priest-kings of a 
kind we can discern in prehistoric Greece, Italy, and other countries: 
they were representatives of the divinity that brought about agricul- 
tural increase, and their proper office was the performance of the rites 
that promoted fertility. The divine folk lived in the Bmgh. From it 
came the brides of the kings' ritual marriages. Perhaps the substanti- 
ality of what may be called the background of these women conies from 
the fact that they could be thought of as having a habitation. The 
sacred king had to have everything about him auspicious: he had to 
be sound, uninjured, and of a fine appearance. So it is with the early 
kings of Tara. 

Conn, his son Art, his grandson Cormac, and his great grandson 
Cairbry form a dynasty at Tara that, compared with the kings before 
them, has the look of a political kingship. This was around a.d. 200. 
Cormac made Tara a social as well as a political center by building the 
great Hall of Assembly in which outstanding personages among the 
nobility and the learned classes were entertained during the sacred 
festivals: he also made the lesser kings lodge their youthful princes in 
Tara as hostages. 

It is possible that in Cormac's time there were influences from 
Roman Britain; some scholars see in Tara's famous hall a reproduction 
of a Roman building and in the Fian who guarded it a reproduction of 
the Roman Legion. The Hall of Assembly left ridges that can still be 
seen and measured. A plan of the interior has come down to us with 
even a list of dishes that were served to the different grades of nobility, 
professional classes, and royal attendants. There was a bulge in the 
center, and there the king, queen, and princes had their seats com- 
manding the upper and lower portions of the hall. 

With Cormac the story of Tara begins. He was the son of Art whose 
father was Conn of the Hundred Battles or the Hundred Battalions 
and his mother's name was Etain. His father, going into battle, foretold 
his death to Etain, and knowing that she had conceived, told her to 
bring her son for fosterage to a friend whom he named, Lugna. 



Etain was then pregnant and resolved to go to the house of Lugna 
Fer Tri so that her child should be born there. When she reached his 

l-roni I he Cycles of the Kings, by Mylcs Dillon, pp. 23-25. CcofTrey Cmberl^e 
Oxford Univcrsiiy Press. London and New York. 19-IC. 

Heroes of Old 85 

country the birth-pains seized her, and she got down from her chariot 
and was delivered of a son on a bed of fern. A peal of thunder greeted 
his birth, and Lugna, hearing this, knew that it was for the birth of 
Cormac, son of the true prince Art, and he set out in search of him. 

Etain slept after her delivery, and entrusted the boy to her maid till 
they should continue their journey. The maid fell asleep, and a she- 
wolf came and carried off the child to her lair in the place now known 
as Cormac's Cave. Lugna came to where she lay, and she told him all 
that had happened. He brought her to his house, and proclaimed that 
whosoever should find tidings of the child should obtain in reward 
whatever he asked. 

Grec MacArod was abroad one day, and coming upon the cave, he 
saw the whelps playing before it and the child creeping among them. 
He brought the news to Lugna, and was granted the territory where 
the Grecraige now dwell. The child and the whelps were brought home 
from the cave, and the child was named Cormac, for that was the name 
his father had given him. He was the delight of many for his beauty 
and grace and dignity and strength and judgment. 

One day, as he was playing with Lugna's sons, he struck one of them. 
The lad exclaimed that it was too much to suffer a blow from one 
whose race and kindred were unknown, save that he was a fatherless 
child. Cormac complained to Lugna, and Lugna told him that he was 
the son of the true prince Art, son of Conn of the Hundred Battles, and 
that it was prophesied that he should steer his father's rudder, for 
there would be no prosperity in Tara until he should reign there. "Let 
us go," said Cormac, "to seek recognition in my father's house in 
Tara." "Let us go then," said Lugna. 

They went to Tara, and MacCon welcomed them and took Cormac 
into fosterage. There was a woman hospitaller in Tara at that time 
named Bennaid. Her sheep grazed the queen's woad. MacCon awarded 
the sheep to the queen in compensation for the grazing of the woad. 
"No," said Cormac. "The shearing of the sheep is enough in compensa- 
tion for the grazing of the woad, for both will grow again." "It is a 
true judgment!" said all. "It is the son of a true prince who has given 
judgmentl" The side of the house on which the false judgment had 
been given fell down the slope. It will stay thus for ever. That is the 
Crooked Mound of Tara. 

The men of Ireland expelled MacCon and gave the kingship to 
Cormac. Everything prospered while he lived. His wolves remained 
with him, and the reason for the great honor he received was that he 
had been reared by wolves. 

Tara was restored by Cormac so that it was grander than ever before, 

86 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

houses, fences, and buildings. Well was it with Ireland in his time. 
The rivers teemed with fish, the woods with mast, the plains with 
honey, on account of the justice of his rule. Deer were so plentiful that 
there was no need to hunt them. Cormac built the noblest building 
that ever was raised in Tara. Though he was opposed by the Ulster- 
men, he was never deprived of the kingship till his death. He died in 
the raith of the hospitaller in Cletech when a salmon bone stuck in 
his throat. 

Cormac ordered that he should not be buried in Bruig na Boinne, 
for he did not adore the same god as those who were buried there. He 
ordered his burial in Ros na Rig with his face due east towards the 
rising sun. 

Instructions of a King 

"O Cormac, grandson of Conn," said Carbery, "what were your 
habits when you were a lad?" 
"Not hard to tell," said Cormac. 

I was a listener in woods, 

I was a gazer at stars, 

I was blind where secrets were concerned, 

I was silent in a wilderness, 

I was talkative among many, 

I was mild in the mead-hall, 

I was stern in the battle, 

I was gentle towards allies, 

I was a physician of the sick, 

I was weak towards the feeble, 

I was strong towards the powerful, 

I was not close lest I should be burdensome, 

I was not arrogant though I was wise, 

I was not given to promising though I was strong, 

I was not venturesome though I was swift, 

I did not deride the old though I was young, 

I was not boastful though I was a good fighter, 

I would not speak of anyone in his absence, 

«w£Xr to 7£T An / Xtnt lTish Poetry > translated by Kuno M C y C r. pp. 105-106. 
Constable & Co. Ltd. London. 1911. > • rr » »"». 

Heroes of Old 87 

I would not reproach, but I would praise, 
I would not ask, but I would give, 
For it is through these habits that the young become 
old and kingly warriors." 

"O Cormac, grandson of Conn," said Carbery, "what is the worst 
thing you hkve seen?" 

"Not hard to tell," said Cormac. "Faces of foes in the rout of battle." 

"O Cormac, grandson of Conn," said Carbery, "what is the sweetest 
thing you have heard?" 

"Not hard to tell," said Cormac. 

"The shout of triumph after victory, 

Praise after wages, 

A lady's invitation to her pillow." 

Dermott and Grania 

It was very early in the morning; the place was under Finn Mac- 
Cuhal's court, Almu in Leinster; the people were Finn himself and two 
of his captains who had found him roaming around between the light 
and dark. 

"What is the cause of this early rising of yours, Finn?" one asked 


"He is wont to be without slumber and sweet sleep," said Finn, 
"who lacks a fitting wife. When that is the case a man is lonely and 
restless. Anyway, it has been so with me since Maignes, the daughter of 
Garad, died." 

"What is it compels you to be without a wife or mate?" they said 
to him. "You had a wife before Maignes, and a wife before her again. 
And there is no woman or maiden on the green-sodded island oE 
Eirinn, whom, if you turned your eyes on her, we would not bring 

"And I," said one, "could show you a maiden who beyond everyone 
else would be a fitting wife for you." 

"Whom have you in mind?" Finn asked. 

"The daughter of the King of Ireland, Grania." 

From The Frenzied Prince, Being Heroic Stories of Ancient Ireland, told by 
Padraic Colum, pp. 123-139. Copyright. 1943. by David McKay Co. Philadelphia. 

88 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

Finn became thoughtful. After a while he said, "There have been 
variance and distance between King Cormac and myself this while 
back, and if a refusal was given me by him there would be the width 
of the Shannon between us. Would you," he said to the two before him, 
"go to Tara and speak to King Cormac about the affair? If he refuses, 
no one need ever hear of it." 

"We will go to Tara," the two said, "and you, Finn, say nothing 
about what we've gone for unless we are favored by King Cormac." 

The two who spoke to Finn that early morning were Oisin the poet, 
Finn's son, and Duanach MacMorna the druid. It is not told how they 
fared till they reached Tara. But reach Tara they did; they were 
brought before King Cormac. 

"There is not a king's son, a hero, nor a champion in Ireland to 
whom my daughter has not given a refusal of marriage," said the king 
when they told him of their errand. "And each and every one of them," 
he said, "lays the blame on me for the refusal." 

It was easy to be seen that the king was troubled about the matter. 
"I invite you to visit my daughter," he said, laying his hands on the 
shoulders of the envoys. "It is better you should hear her own words 
than that Finn MacCuhal should have any ill-feeling against myself." 
So he brought Oisin and Duanach MacMorna into the women's 
quarters and into Grania's own bower with its window of blue glass. 
And he had Grania bring in bread and meat and wine so that they 
might feast and become familiar together. He himself sat on the 
couch beside his daughter. 

"Here, O Grania," said King Cormac, "are two of the people of 
Finn MacCuhal. They have come to ask that you consider Finn for a 
husband. What answer do you want to give, my daughter?" 

"If he be a fitting son-in-law for you, why should he not be a fitting 
husband for me?" Grania answered. 

"There is no if about it as far as I'm concerned," said the king. To 
that Grania made no answer. 

She had a thin strip of gold about her head and a piece of amber 
at her neck, and MacMorna the druid thought that, like the amber and 
gold, Grania was fine and rare but unreckonable in their possessions. 
She was tired of being with her women, he thought. 

Oisin the poet took stock of Grania so that he might be able to speak 
of her when he went back to Almu. She was young to be in the place 
his own mother had been in, Oisin considered. She was younger than 
the other two wives Finn had had even when they were at their young- 
est. Her fingers with their reddened nails were long; her hands were 
long; she was long from ankle to knee, from knee to thigh. Her lips 

Heroes of Old 89 

were red but very thin, her eyes were bright but not deep. She looked 
on them and looked on her father very steadily but as one who kept 
her own thought. 

She would be a fit wife for Finn, Oisin told himself, for she was 
fair in her looks and knowledgeable in what she said, and in every way 
showed the dignity of a king's daughter. 

All went well; they feasted and became familiar. King Cormac 
looked cheerful when he appointed an evening for Finn and his people 
to come to a feast in Tara when, in the presence of Finn's people and 
the nobles and chiefs of Cormac's territory, Grania's hand would be 
placed in Finn's. 

"I have never looked at Finn," said Grania. "Which of you two is 
he like?" 

"He should be like me," said Oisin, "seeing I'm his son." 

"Yes," said Grania, "Finn has a son who has reached an age when 
he can be as famous as you are, Oisin." 

Then Oisin and MacMorna went back to Alinu in Lcinstcr, and 
came into Finn's court there, and told him of the favorable reception 
that had been given them, and told him of Grania's looks and manners 
and words. Afterwards Finn announced the feast they had been invited 
to in Tara, and when the Fian knew what the feast was towards, they 
raised three shouts around their captain, Finn MacCuhal. 

Now as everything wears away so the space of time between then and 
the time of the feast wore away, and the clay come when Finn with his 
chosen chieftains left Almu for Tara. A joyous and colorful band, they 
crossed the plain of Leinster and nothing is told of them until they 
entered the Midcuartha, Cormac's great hall in Tara. 

The King of Ireland sat in the raised part that in the shape of a 
bow was midway in the hall, commanding the upper and lower parts. 
His wife sat at his left shoulder and his daughter Grania sat at her left 
shoulder. Finn MacCuhal sat on the king's right shoulder and the 
druid MacMorna sat beside him. 

Across the hall Cairbry, Cormac's son, sat with Oisin beside him. 
And in the body of the hall were the captains of the Fian and the 
nobles of Ireland, each according to his rank and his patrimony. 

Without clamour or disturbance all were served. 

Between those who were beside the king there was gentle discourse. 
Duanach MacMorna, as the feast went on, chanted for Grania the 
songs and verses and melodious poems of her fathers and ancestors, 
the lays of their home place, Cruachan, from whence the kings of 
Ireland had come to Tara. 

After listening to these for a while, Grania said: 

90 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

"What is the reason for Finn's coming to Tara this night?" 

"If it is not known to you," said the druid, "do not wonder if it is 
not known to me." 

"I desire to hear it from you." 

"It is to ask for yourself as a wife and a mate that Finn has come 
to Tara." 

"I marvel that it is not for the like of Oisin he would ask me," said 

Grania, "for it is fitter I should be with the like of him than be with 

a man as old as my father." 
The druid kept silent at that, and Grania said: 
"Who is the warrior who is just below Oisin's place?" 
"Goll MacMorna, the active and soldierly." 
"Who is that graceful man at the shoulder of Goll?" 
"Caelte MacRonan." 

**Who is the haughty looking warrior at MacRonan's shoulder?" 
"MacLugaid who is sister's son to Finn MacCuhal." 
"Who is the young warrior at the other side of Oisin? I mean the 

one with the ruddy cheeks and the curling black hair." 

"He is Dermott, grandson of Duivna, favored of women and maidens, 

and a mortal whom Angus of the Brugh greatly cherishes." 

"That must set O'Duivna well apart from the rest of you," said 

Grania. "No one else of the Fian, I think, is cherished by an immortal. 

Who is at Dermott's shoulder?" 

"Diorruing. He is a very skilful leach." 

"What a goodly company is herel" said Grania. 

"But chief of all is the one at your father's shoulder." 

"Ah, Finn!" said Grania. "Do not think you have to remind me of 


But as if she had been reminded of him she called to her special 
handmaid and had her bring her the jewelled goblet that was in her 
bower behind the dais, her own goblet. The handmaid brought it and 
Grania filled it. 

"Take the goblet to Finn first," she said to her handmaid, "and ask 
him to take a draught out of it, and let him know that it is sent by 
me." The goblet contained a drink for nine times nine men. In the 
liquor Grania put a cunning drug. 

Finn laughed as he took a draught out of it. But soon he fell into a 
stupor and then into a slumber. The goblet was handed around. Cor- 
mac took the goblet and drank and he, too, fell into a slumber; so did 
Cormac's wife, Queen Eitche. 

"Take the goblet to Cairbry and ask him to drink out of it; tell him 

Heroes of Old 91 

it comes from Crania, and ask him to give the goblet to the nobles by 

The handmaid did as Crania bade her. 

After he had drunk out of it Cairbry was hardly able to pass the 
goblet on to those next him. All who drank out of the goblet fell into 
a deep slumber. 

Thereupon Crania left her place and went to where Dermott was. 
She stood beside him and she said: 

"Wilt thou receive courtship from me, O Dermott?" 

"I may not," said Dermott, "seeing you are betrothed to my chieftain, 

"That has not yet been," said Crania. "Wilt thou receive courtship 
from me, O'Duivna?" 

"I will not, Crania, because thou dost not know me, having seen me 
only this once." 

"I have seen you before, O'Duivna, and on a special occasion. It 
was at the hurling match between the Fian and the men of Tara when 
you saved the match for the Fian by breaking two goals against my 
brother Cairbry. Wilt thou receive courtship from me?" 

"I will not. Finn would be humbled by that, and I am not one to 
humble my chieftain." 

"Then," said Crania, "I lay obligations on you, obligations that bind 
you through the force of ancient Druidism, O'Duivna. I lay obligations 
on you to take me out of this house tonight before Finn MacCuhal 
and the King of Ireland come out of their slumber." 

"Wicked are you to lay obligations of the kind upon me," Dermott 
cried. "And why do you lay them on me rather than on the sons of 
kings and high princes who are in this royal house tonight?" he added 

"Because there is no man in all Ireland I would have take me except 
you, Dermott O'Duivna. You and my father were watching the match 
that I saw through my window of blue glass. One of the champions 
of the Fian was stricken and the game was going against them. Then 
you sprang up, took the hurling-bat from one who was there, went 
into the game and won it for the Fian. I never gave my love to any 
man from that time to this but to you alone, Dermott, and I never 
will no matter what comes or goes." 

"Oisin," said Dermott, "what can I do about the obligations that 
have been laid upon me?" 

"It is part of your honor now to keep these obligations," Oisin said. 
"Go with Crania, but keep yourself well against the wiles and force 
of Finn." 

92 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

"What counsel do you give me, Caelte?" 

"I have a fitting wife, and yet I had rather than the wealth and fame 
of the world that it had been to me that Cormac's daughter proffered 

"What counsel, O Diorruing, do you give?" 

"Go with Grania though death come out of it and I come to grieve 
because of that." 

"Is that the counsel of all of you?" 
"It is," said Oisin, and all the others said it with him. 
Then Dermott stretched out his hands and took farewell of Oisin 
and the chiefs of the Finn. It was no wonder he wept then; he was 
leaving that great companionship forever. 

Now on the night that Finn was in Tara, it was he who kept the 
keys of the rampart, and so none could leave the royal precinct. 
Dermott looked to the dais where the king and queen, Finn and Mac- 
Morna were in slumber and to the other parts of the hall where those 
who had been given the goblet slept. 

They would wake up, Dermott thought, and find himself and 
Grania in the hall, for there was no way of their getting beyond the 
rampart. Grania led Dermott up to the royal seat. Outside it was her 
own bower. They went through it and into a garden that was closed 
with a wicket gate. 

"It is against my obligations as one of the Fian," said Dermott, "to 
go through the low gate." 

But Grania went to the other side of the wicket and called to him. 

"I know, O Grania," said Dermott heavily, "that the course you face 

towards is not for a king's daughter. I know not what nook or corner 

or distant part of Ireland I can take you to that would be safe from 

MacCuhal's vengeance." 

"It is certain I will not come back," said Grania, "and that I will 
not part from you until death parts me from you." 

"Then I will not tell you to come back," said Dermott. He put his 
hands on the staves of his two spears and rose and vaulted across the 
wall. He was on the grass-green ground of the plain beyond the ram- 
part. Grania was beside him. 

"Forward, O Grania," said Dermott as he folded her cloak about 
her. "We must be far away and well hidden by the time Finn MacCuhal 
takes his weapon in his hand." 

They in the hall wakened in the early day and it was not long before 
it was disclosed to Finn and the others that Grania and Dermott had 
stolen away together. Finn stood looking into the goblet that held the 
draught Grania had sent him. Cormac and Cairbry went from the hall, 

Heroes of Old 93 

but still Finn stood looking into the goblet. The women wailed for 
Grania gone, but Finn stayed movelessly there. The rest of the Fian 
gathered together and went out on the rampart, but Finn still stood, 
and still looked into the goblet. But at last he went outside and sum- 
moned his trackers; he bade them follow Dermott and Grania and 
show him the place where they were. He took his weapon then, and, 
giving a command to the troop of the Fian that were there, went 
with them after the trackers. 

Dermott and Grania had gone a mile beyond Tara when Grania 

"I am wearying, O'Duivna." 

"Your father's mansion is not far behind," Dermott said. "Bethink 
you, Grania! I can bring you back without Finn or your father know- 
ing that we went on this way." 

"No, but do this, O'Duivna," said Grania. "Go back to where my 
father's horses are, their chariots beside them. Take horses and a 
chariot and come back to this place where I shall wait for you." 

Dermott went. He yoked a chariot to a pair of horses and drove 
back to where he had left her. Grania had remained there. He lifted 
her into the chariot and drove on through the darkness, facing to- 
wards the west. The sun rose and Dermott hurried the horses on. It 
was full day when they came to the River Shannon. Dermott led one 
horse across and left the other to stray up or down the bank. The 
chariot he broke up and threw pieces of it into deep parts of the 
river. He lifted Grania up and carried her across the ford. And now 
they were in Connacht where there were many unknown and hidden 

Finn's trackers, when they came to the river, had no more traces 
they could follow. But Finn told them he would hang them each side 
of the ford unless they found track again. What could they do but 
go up and down like hounds until they found it? 

So they followed Dermott and Grania, the trackers and Finn with 
the troop he had with him. But Oisin took Bran, Finn's wise hound, 
and set her upon the track, knowing that if she came upon the pair 
she would warn them that pursuers were coming on them. Bran came 
to where Dermott and Grania were resting and put her head on 
Dermott's bosom. 

"This is Finn's hound and the Fian are near us," he said. 

Grania shook at the thought that she would be taken from Dermott 

and that he would be slain before her eyes. "Take warning and fly," 

she cried. And those two who now knew that in all the world they 

had only each other headed away from whence Bran came. They fled 

94 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

from hiding place to hiding place that day and the next day and the 
day after that. But though the trackers came close to them Dermott's 
comrades of the Fian always found ways of warning them when pur- 
suit was gaining on them. 

A day came when part of a forest they were lurking in was nearly 
surrounded and the trackers had sworn to Finn they would bring 
Dermott's head to him, Caelte had his great-voiced henchman raise 
the Fian hunting-cry. 

They slipped out of the forest and found badgers' holes that they 
hid in. 

Finn went back to his court in Almu. But his jealousy about Grania 
and his hatred of Dermott did not abate. He put a ban upon Dermott 
as an outlaw in hiding from him and as a forest freebooter. 

Then Dermott and Grania had respite from pursuit. The chieftain 
of a territory they came into permitted them to build a bothie and to 
hunt and fish and gather the wild fruit in his territory. Twelve moons 
they lived there. 

One evening Dermott was strewing rushes and the soft tops of pine 
trees for a bed, and Grania was cooking salmon by a stream; they saw 
a shining figure in the glade and Dermott knew him for Angus, his 
fosterer. And when he had greeted them Angus, looking on them with 
grave and kindly gaze, said: 

"The counsel I give you is that you flee from this place and from 
every place that you are known in, and in your going here and there 
never to go into a cave in which there is but one passage, never to go 
on an island that has but one channel between it and the land. What- 
ever place you cook your meal in, there eat it not; whatever place you 
eat in, there sleep not; whatever place you sleep in, there eat not on the 

Angus went from them and at the first light Dermott and Grania 
left the place that had sheltered them. The wild deer was their meat 
and the water of the springs was their drink. They roamed Ireland 
while Dermott made a living by the strength of his hand and the 
temper of his sword. 

As for Finn MacCuhal, he gave his counsel to one person only, to 
his woman-spy and tracker, Deirdu. She went up and down Ireland 
for him, finding out about Dermott and Grania, where they sheltered, 
who were their friends and unfriends. And by Deirdu he sent message 
to ancient enemies of his clan, men of the broken Clan Morna, who 
would gladly make peace with him. 

Then one day when the chief battalion of the Fian stood with him 
at Almu they beheld a troop coming towards them. 

Heroes of Old 95 

"Our fathers were at the battle of Cnucha and the slaying of Cuhal," 
they said, "and now we want to make peace and obtain from Finn 
the places in the Fian that our fathers had." 

"You must give compensation for the slaying of Cuhal," Finn 
answered them. 

"We have no gold nor silver nor herds of cattle to give, Finn." 
"Ask no compensation of them," said Oisin to his father. "Their 
fathers fell at Cnucha, and that should be compensation enough for 
the slaying of your father." 

"It seems to me," said Finn, "that if anyone should slay me it would 
be an easy matter to satisfy my son in the matter of compensation. 
But for all that, none shall come into the Fian without giving me 

"What compensation would you have us make, Finn?" asked the 
leader of the troop. 

"I ask the head of a warrior," said Finn. 

"I will give you good counsel," said Oisin, speaking to the troop 
whose fathers had been at the battle of Cnucha, "return to where you 
were reared and do not ask peace of Finn as long as you live. It is no 
light matter to get for Finn what he will ask of you. Return." 

"Nay," said the leader of those dull-witted men, "our hearts are set 
on joining the Fian, and we will make the compensation that Finn asks 
of us." 

When no one was beside them Finn told them what compensation 
he wanted from them: the head of Dermott O'Duivna. 

Then one day Finn saw coming towards him his woman-tracker 
Deirdu, her legs failing, her tongue raving, her eyes dropping out of 
her head, and he knew that the day of his vengeance had come. Der- 
mott and Grania, the woman told him, had taken refuge in the Fortress 
of the Ancient people, and Clan Morna were closing round that ring of 

Forthwith Finn summoned certain battalions of the Fian and they 
went swiftly towards the fortress of Da Both. Clan Morna were there. 
They told him that the one whose head they would bring him was 
within the ring of standing stones and that there was a woman with 

"Foul fall the friends of Dermott O'Duivna for his sake," said Finn. 
"Dermott O'Duivna is not there," said Oisin, "and it is a mark of 
your envy and jealousy, Finn, to think that he would put himself in 
such a place." 

Then Finn lifted up his voice, and cried: 

"Which of us is the truth with, O Dermott, myself or Oisin?" 

96 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

And the answer of Dermott came back: 

"Thou didst never err in thy judgment, Finn." 

And the battalion of the Fian and the troop of Clan Morna with 
Finn himself standing amongst them saw Dermott stand on one of 
the stones of the fortress: they saw him raise Grania beside him; they 
saw him give her three kisses while Finn stood there. Stings of jealousy 
went into the heart of Finn and he swore that Dermott should give 
his life for those kisses. 

But now Dermott, his armour on, his sword in hand, came to one 
of the openings in the fortress. "Who is outside?" he asked. 

"No foe, Dermott, for here is Oisin. Come out to us and none will 
dare do thee hurt or harm." 

"I will not break out until I find what opening Finn himself is at." 

"Caelte is here," was said to him at another opening. "Come amongst 
us and we will fight and die for your sake." 

"No," said Dermott, "for I will not have Finn harry you because 
of your well doing to myself." 

To the third, to the fourth, to the fifth opening Dermott went. At 
the sixth he was told that the Clan Morna were there. 

"Unvaliant ye are, O ye of the lie and the tracking, and it is not 
from fear of your hand," said Dermott, "but from disgust of you I 
will not go out." 

He went to the seventh, and when he asked who were at that open- 
ing he heard Finn MacCuhal's voice. 

"Here am I with my own henchmen, and if you should come 
amongst us we promise to cleave your bones asunder." 

"I pledge my word," said Dermott, "that the gate that you are at, O 
Finn, is the very gate that I shall go through." 

He turned to take farewell of Grania, and he saw beside her the 
shining figure of Angus of the Brugh. He knew that Grania would 
be taken to safety. If he were not slain by Finn and his henchmen 
he would be with Grania again. 

"I shall put my mantle over her and depart from this without the 
knowledge of Finn or the Fian of Ireland," Angus said. 

As for Finn, he charged his troop to let Dermott take three steps 
towards them. But, with his hands on the staves of his spears, Dermott 
vaulted across the wall and beyond Finn's troop. Standing away from 
them, his shield before him, his sword in his hand, he said: 

"There never came on thee, Finn, battle or combat, strait or ex- 
tremity in my time that I would not adventure into for thy sake and 
the sake of the Fian. And I swear that if thou dost attack me I shall 
avenge myself and thou shalt not get my head at a little cost." 

Heroes of Old 97 

"Dermott has spoken truth," said Oisin, "and it is to meet that you, 
Finn, spare him and forgive him." 

"I will not," answered Finn. 

Then only the troop of Clan Morna would make the attack on 
Dermott. The battalions of the Fian stood by, their arms on the 
ground. But the troop of Clan Morna were engaged against him, and 
rushed upon him. 

Dermott, sword in hand, passed through them as a wolf through 
a flock of sheep. 

When Finn would go into the battle, the Fian linked their shields 
together and held him back. Then when the Fian drew off and the 
troop of Clan Morna had no more battling, Finn looked on a heap 
of slain and saw that Dermott was not amongst them. 

Deirdu who had searched the fortress came to tell him that Grania 
was not to be found. 

Then Finn knew all he had lost: Cormac's daughter, the trust his 
companions had had in him, the faith in himself Uiai he had held 
since the night he had saved Tara from the Goblin. So much had 
Grania taken from him when she had sent him the goblet to drink 
out of. And his heart was still unforgiving. 

As for Dermott he went to the Brugh of Angus by the Boyne. Out- 
side it two figures stood, Angus and Grania. The life of Grania almost 
fled through her mouth when she saw Dermott with all the marks of 
combat upon him. Angus washed out his wounds and gave him a 
new garb and brought him and Grania into his mansion. 

Later Grania went back to Tara and the King of Ireland endeavored 
to make peace between Dermott and Finn MacCuhal. It went hard 
with Finn to make peace, but he knew that he could not keep up the 
feud with Dermott since his own Fian would not support him in it. 
He agreed to the terms that Dermott proffered and he lifted the ban. 

These were the terms that Finn MacCuhal and King Cormac made 
with Dermott O'Duivna: The district which his father owned he was 
let have, and the district of Cos Corann was given by King Cormac as 
a dowry to Grania. In his own patrimony Dermott built a great house. 

The Death of Dermott 

In the Great House he built, the house that was named Rath Grania, 
Dermott O'Duivna lay. In the dark of night he wakened out of his 

Ibid., pp. 141-150. 

98 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

sleep, starting with such violence that Grania had to hold him. 

'What has come into your mind?" she asked, her arms about him. 

"It seemed to me that I heard the baying of a hound." 

"But it is night," said Grania. 

"It is night," said Dermott, "but I heard that baying only now. I 
wonder at the baying of a hound that seems hunting in the night." 

But Grania quieted him, singing to him the sleep-song that she had 
sung on a night of their flight from Finn: 

Sleep, although the wild-duck, deeming 
That the fox is stepping near, 
Guides her brood from out the shallows 
To the middle of the mere. 

Dermott slept, but he heard again the baying of the hound; with a 
start he wakened, and again Grania quieted him with her sleep-song: 

Sleep, although the linnet rustles 
From that rounded nest of hers, 
She should keep her head enfolded — 
Nothing but the ivy stirsl 

He slept again, and when he wakened it was daylight. He stood on the 
middle of the floor as if listening for something. His own hound, 
Mac an Cuill, ran whimpering about the yard. 

"I will go seek the hound whose voice I heard last night," Dermott 
said to Grania. 

"I would not have you go," Grania said. "I pray you not to go 
anywhere today." She put her arms about him. "Do not go where I 
cannot see you today," she said. 

But Dermott would not have her hold him. "What should I be 
doing in Rath Grania on a day of May when the bushes are in blos- 
som?" was all he asked. 

"That is not why you go, Dermott," Grania said. 

"I will be more content," he said, "when I look from the top of 
Ben Gulban and know what the hound was hunting in the night." 

Grania knew she could not stay him when he spoke in that way. 
She watched him as he made ready to betake himself from Rath 
Grania. As he was fastening his belt she said: "I would have you arm 
yourself with your great sword, the Moralltach, today." 

"It is too heavy," Dermott said. "I will take my smaller sword, the 

Heroes of Old 99 

"In that case," said Grania, "let your spear be the great one, the 
Gae Derg." 

"What beast could I use the Gae Derg on?" answered Dermott. "I 
am going hunting; I will take Mac an Cuill with me on a leash." 

"When if not today," said Grania, "could we talk to our household 
about the feast we should give for the King of Ireland and Finn and 
the chiefs of the Fian? Let us arrange that today, and you, Dermott, 
can go hunting on Ben Gulban tomorrow." 

"It is well bethought of," said Dermott, "but today is a good day 
for hunting and tomorrow will not be a bad day to talk about the 
giving of a feast." 

So Dermott left Rath Grania. 

All alone, leading his hound and armed with his lesser sword and 
his lesser spear he went up the slopes of Ben Gulban. When he reached 
the top there was one standing there as if waiting for him, a man with 
a single hound beside him. The man was Finn MacCuhal. 

Dermott O'Duivna did not salute him as Finn was wont to be 
saluted by men of the Fian. He spoke only to ask if he were holding 
a chase on the hill. And Finn, looking at Dermott's hound and sword 
and spear answered that not he, but certain captains of the Fian were 
holding a chase on Ben Gulban. 

"They hunt the Boar of Ben Gulban," Finn told him. "They are 
foolish to do that. Already the boar has wounded a score of the beaters." 

"I heard a hound baying in the night," said Dermott, "and that 
was what brought me here." 

"Leave the hill to the boar and his hunters, O'Duivna," said Finn. 
"I do not want you to be here." 

"Why should I leave the hill?" Dermott answered. "I have no dread 
of a boar." 

"You should have," said Finn, "for you are under prohibitions 
about hunting a boar." 

"My father was cursed on account of a boar," said Dermott, "I know 

"The curse was to fall on your father's son and on no one else, 
O'Duivna," Finn said. "It has been told you by me, remember." 

"Even so," said Dermott, "it would be craven of me to leave the 
hill before I had sight of the boar. Here I stay. But would you leave 
your hound with mine?" 

Finn did not answer. He went down the side of the hill and his 
hound followed him, leaving Dermott a solitary man with the hound 
Mac an Cuill beside him. There was a tearing noise and Dermott 
knew that the Boar of Ben Gulban was coming up the hill, and he 

100 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

knew that none was in pursuit of him because there was no baying 
of hounds behind him. No men, no hounds were there to hem him 

Dermott unslipped Mac an Cuil. But the hound cowered before 
the bristled, gnashing brute. 

He slipped his finger into the string of his lesser spear, the Gae Bwee, 
and made a careful cast. The spear struck the boar between his little 
eyes. But not a single bristle was cut, not a gash or scratch was made 
upon him. 

"Woe to him who heeds not the counsel of a good wife," said 
Dermott O'Duivna to himself. 

He drew the Begalhach from his belt and struck the wild boar. 
But even then the boar pitched him so that he fell along the bristly 
back. Then the boar turned and crashed down the side of the hill. 
He rushed back and reached the summit again. There he pitched 
Dermott down and gored and ripped him. And Dermott lay on the 
ground not able to raise himself, writhing with the pain of his deep, 
wide wounds. 

On the track of the boar came the hunters; Finn and four chiefs 
of the Fian with them. They found Dermott where he was lying; and 
Oisin and Caelte raised hiin up. 

"What grief to see a hero torn by a pig," said Oisin. "What grief to 
us to see Dermott O'Duivna in this plight." 

"I grieve," said Finn, "that the women of Ireland are not here to 
gaze on him and to see the beauty and grace they found in him spoiled 
by the pig's gashes." 

"Finn has come," said Dermott, knowing his voice, "and it is in 
his power to heal me." 

"It is in Finn's power to heal Dermott," said the other chiefs of the 

"I am no leach," said Finn. 

"It was granted to thee, Finn, by the Women of the Green Mantles," 
said Dermott, "that a draught of water carried in thy hands would 
heal a wounded man." 

"It is true what Dermott says," said Oisin, Finn's son. 

"I can give the draught only to such as are deserving of it from me. 
What would all of you have? O'Duivna is not deserving that I should 
bring him water in my palms," said Finn MacCuhal harshly. 

"I am well deserving of it, and you know that well, Finn," said 
Dermott. "Whatever you might do for me would be only a repayment 
for what I have done for you. When your bitter enemies cast firebrands 
on a house you were feasting in, I was not backward in willingness 

Heroes of Old 101 

to relieve you. I bade you stay within enjoying your heady drinks while 
I went forth and slew men and quenched the flames. You were not 
surly when I came back to you. If I had asked you for a drink then 
you would have given it to me." 

"Unfaithfulness changes everything, O'Duivna," said Finn, "and the 
world knows that you were unfaithful to me. You bore Crania away 
from me in the presence of the men of Ireland." 

"I do not regret that I took Crania, Finn," said Dermott, "and it 
has been told you by men you can believe that Cormac's daughter put 
me under bonds to take her away. And that is not what you should 

"You should bring me a drink in your palms because of your 
remembrance of the time when you were beleaguered in the Brugh of 
the Rowan Tree, and I hastened to your relief, and by my fortune and 
valour brought you a goblet I had taken from your beleaguerers. I gave 
you that goblet in token of a victory that saved you, Finn. You should 
remember that and not harden your heart against me. Many a valiant 
man has fallen by your hand and there are others who will fall. There 
will be reckoning for you and the Fian. Not for you do I grieve, but 
for Oisin and Oscar and the rest of the brave and faithful companion- 
ship. I know that you, Oisin, will be left to lament over the Fian." 

Oisin said, "I will not allow you, Finn, to withhold a drink of water 
from Dermott O'Duivna. And I say now that if any other prince in 
the world should think of doing O'Duivna such treachery there should 
leave this hill only whoever of us had the strongest hand. Heed what 
I say, and bring the water in your palms without delay." 

"I know not where the wells are on this mountain," said Finn. 

One of the Fian said, "Nine paces from you is a well of clear water." 

Finn MacCuhal went to the well and raised the full of his hands 
of the water. 

He turned to where Dermott O'Duivna lay. But he had not gone 
more than four paces when he let the water slip through his hands. 

When they stepped towards him angrily he went back and took his 
palms' full of water out of the well. But even as he turned round he 
thought upon Crania and let the water slip through his hands. Dermott 
sighed piteously when he saw that. 

"We will not stand here and see such treachery done," they said, 
and Oisin, Oscar, Caelte and Lewy's son put their spears against Finn 
MacCuhal. Then Finn for the third time lifted water from the well. 
But as Finn stood above him, his hands held out stiffly, life parted 
from the body of Dermott O'Duivna. 

There was silence on the top of the hill until Dermott's hound, Mac 

102 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

an Cuill, coming back, stood above Dermott's body and bayed long 
and loud. Oisin and Oscar, Caelte and Lewy's son stood there, no sighs 
nor groans coming from them although their hearts were wrung. They 
looked on Dermott who had had such grace and vigour and accom- 
plishment, and thought about by-gone days and the joyousness that had 
been in the Fian, the sport, the spirit, and the companionship. 

Finn MacCuhal went from them and stood beside the well. And 
seeing him there Caelte said, "No draught can heal you, Finn, nor 
make you any different from what we now know you to be: a cunning 
man, caring for your own ends only — you that were our mainstay." 

Oisin said, "Ignobly you have done, Finn, and we never can have 
reverence for you again." 

Lewy's son said, "The strength of the Fian will go because of this, 
but as you, Finn, planted the acorn, bend the oak yourself." 

But Oscar thought of the affection that Angus bore to Dermott, and 
he cried out: 

"Raise, raise the cry for him, ye Danaan hosts, 
For Dermott with the weapons laid across, 
And place him in your green, smooth-sided Brugh: 
But we will keep the sorrow of his loss." 

Then the four covered Dermott with their mantles and set a guard 
of the Fian around him. 

Then to where Finn was standing Dermott's hound, Mac an Cuill, 
went, and Finn put a leash on him and held him. But his own hound 
stayed away from Finn. 

Grania was standing on the ramparts when she saw the chiefs of 
the Fian coming towards Rath Grania, and she recognized them: Finn, 
Oisin, Oscar, Caelte, and Lewy's son, and she knew that the hound 
that Finn led was Dermott's. A chill went through her body. "If 
Dermott were alive it is not Finn who would lead Mac an Cuill," she 
said to herself. 

When they came to where she stood they told her, "Dermott is 
dead, slain by the Boar of Ben Gulban." 

She fainted, hearing that. 

And when her senses came back to her and she knew that what she 
had heard was true, she raised a cry that was heard at the furthest end 
of the stronghold, so that her women and retainers who were there 
came to the rampart. 

Then wailing went up from his household for Dermott O'Duivna. 

Still Finn held Mac an Cuill. Grania asked him to let go the hound, 

Heroes of Old 103 

but Finn said, "It is little enough I recovered from Dermott O'Duivna 
whom I fostered and made a hero of, and this hound of his I shall 

Oisin went and took the leash out of Finn's hand and brought Mac 
an Cuill to Grania. She sent the retainers to Ben Gulban to bring the 
dead back to Rath Grania. But that they did not do, for Dermott's 
body had been taken away by Angus Og. 

As for Finn MacCuhal, he went back to Almu. Gloomy indeed were 
the days there, for there was no longer trust between the Fian and 
their chieftain. 

When another season had passed, Finn, without the knowledge of 
his captains and without making any farewells to them, left Almu. 
To Rath Grania he went. And as he was alone and unarmed he was 
permitted to enter. 

When Grania came to where he was, Finn told her he had come 
to Offer a peace, and, when they had grown, to give her sons a place 
in the Fian. 

At first Grania would not listen to him. But then she listened and 
he told her how Dermott's sons would be looked up to in the Fian. 
"But who will guarantee that?" Grania asked him. 

"Yourself, Grania," Finn said. "For there is no man more fit for 
you to marry than myself, and there is no woman in Ireland more fit 
to be the wife of Finn MacCuhal than you." Grania would not listen 
to him at first, but then she listened, and in more and more fervent 
words he told her how much he loved her. 

A day came when the captains of the Fian saw a pair coming towards 
Almu, and one was Finn, and the other, when the pair came nearer, 
they knew for Grania. Thereupon the captains of the Fian gave three 
shouts of derision and mockery. Grania bent her head in shame. But 
Finn took her hand and led her into the great hall of Almu. 

At the banquet that night Oisin said to his father, "We trow, Finn, 
that from this time on you will keep Grania fast." 

Whatever was meant by that, Finn did keep Grania, and Grania 
seemed to like being kept fast by the Chieftain of the Fian. She and 
Finn stayed together until one of them died. And though there was 
no longer that spirit amongst the Fian that Oisin and Caelte remem- 
bered, they all had to stand together, for now Cormac's son, Cairbry, 
stirred against them. 

104 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

The Gruff Gillie 

If anyone asked who was the best-looking and the most pleasant- 
spoken amongst the Fian, the answer was easy: he was Dermott 
O'Duivna. And if anyone asked who was the most unseemly and the 
most scurrilous-tongued in the three battalions, the answer, too, was 
easy: he was Conan Baldhead. It was a spectacle to see two such figures 
together, the handsome Dermott and the cross-eyed Conan. 

But it was not when the white shields were against their shoulders 
and the helmets were on their heads that one beheld the unlikeness 
that made even the hounds and horses ga?e and ga/e. It was when, 
their nine months' service to the King of Ireland rendered, the Fian 
went to hunt the deer in Munster, making their camp at Knockany. 
They went there after the harvest month, the three battalions with 
their hounds, their horses, and their gillies. One year Finn appointed 
Conn n the ninster of the camp and Dermott the starter of the chase. 

When the baying of the full-grown hounds and the yelping of the 
whelps were filling the camp, Dermott came to Finn and told him that 
an uncouth-looking fellow was on his way towards them. 

"If his looks don't belie his voice," said Finn, "he must be an out- 
landish kind of fellow." He said this because a big, bawling, brawling 
voice was now in their ears. 

Into the camp came a shambling fellow leading a shambling horse. 
His chest was as wide as a door, and a pair of big, hairy knees appeared 
under his tunic; he was wide-mouthed and gap-toothed and his head 
was as shaggy as a wolf's fell. An iron-mounted club was in his hand, 
and with it he struck the side of his horse making a sound that was 
like a wind tearing down a sail. The horse's ribs showed through its 
flea-bitten hide. It was a long horse, or, rather, a long mare, with a 
back like the ridge of a house. The Fian who were around thought 
that with every next blow of the iron-shod club she would be knocked 
over on the green. 

And then the pair stood there, the halter on the ground, the iron- 
shod club held in one hand while with the other the fellow scratched 
the back of his head, and the mare's head hung to the ground. 

Heroes of Old 105 

camp-master, "because you couldn't look like that and be anybody else 
except Conan." 

"Your business, lout?" roared Conan. 

"It's about getting a place in your Fian," said the fellow. "That is, 
if I can find out what wages you pay a lad like me." 

"Docs a horse-boy come with you?" Finn asked. 

"Horse-boy?" said the fellow. "If I had a horse-boy he would have 
to get a bit out of everything I get to eat. Believe you me, Finn," said 
he, clapping his stomach, "I have an appetite that won't let me give 
anything to anyone else. I'm a Fomorian, I am," said he, "and we 
Fomorians do without horse-boys. And as for my mare, she's a kindly 
beast, and I like to keep her under my own control." 

With that he picked up the rope and held the mare as if he was 
afraid some one of the Fian was going to take her from him. 

The beaters and the stalkers were standing around, holding the 
hounds on their leashes, all looking at the long, knobby, down-looking 
mare and the outlandish-looking fellow that held her. The mare 
wheezed and her head dropped lower. 

"Who are you?" asked Finn. 

"I'm known east and west and south and north as the Gruff Gillie," 
he said, "or, if you like, the Rough Gillie, or the Tough Gillie. I'm 
called that because I've notions of my own what to do and no master 
that I've ever had has been able to change them. And you," said he 
to Finn and to the rest of the Fian who were coming out of their 
bothies, "don't ever try to get me to do things that I don't want to do." 

"Shall we take the Gruff Gillie for a camp-servant?" said Finn to 
the Fian who were around. 

The hounds were baying and the three battalions of the Fian felt 
in a sporting humor as did Finn himself. "Aye, aye," they cried. "Take 
him for a gillie." 

"Conan," ordered Finn, "take the gillie's mare to the grazing-ground. 
And you, O'Duivna," he said, "have your horn ready to blow for the 
best chase that was ever on Knockany." 

Conan, abusing everyone, led the knobby, long-backed, knock-kneed 
mare to the grazing ground, and the Gruff Gillie, using his club for a 
pole, vaulted about with the joy, it would seem, of getting a place with 
the Fian of Ireland. It was a sight that made all forget the prospect of 
the chase of Knockany. But one man did not forget it; he was Dermott; 
he stood there, the horn in his hands, impatient to blow it. 

"Isn't it nice to have bald-headed Conan for my horse-boy?" shouted 
the gillie as he vaulted with his club. 

The horses in the grazing-ground raised their heads and sniffed as 

106 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

the queer-looking mare was brought amongst them. It was plain they 
had never seen the like of her. When Conan let go of the rope she 
stood with her head hanging as if she were ready to die on her four 
legs. The fine racers and hunters belonging to the chiefs of the Fian 
came around her. 

Then suddenly the gillie's mare shot out her hind-legs and struck a 
horse belonging to Caelte full on the jaws, knocking it sideways. Then 
screaming and kicking she tore through the others, biting this one, 
kicking the other. The horses of the Fian scattered all over the graz- 
ing -field. The hounds barked, the men shouted, the horses screamed, 
and above all the sounds was the wheezing of the Gruff Gillie's mare. 

Finn shouted an order to Conan. Conan grabbed the rope and 
dragged the mare from the grazing-field. "May you get as knobby 
and as knock-kneed, Finn," said he, "for letting the man and beast 
stay amongst us." 

"I dare you to lay a hand on my mare," bawled the gillie. "I dare 
you, Conan." 

Conan went on the mare's back. "I'll ride her out of this," said he. 
But the mare lay down, Conan on her back, and not for all the kicks 
he gave her would she rise again. 

The Fian, their hands on their knees, laughed at Conan straddling 
the long mare, all except Dermott who stood with the horn in his 

"She's used to bigger weight than yours, manikin," bawled the gillie. 
"If a few of the lads get on her back she'll rise quick enough." 

One, and then another, of the Fian got on the mare's back. Thirteen 
crowded behind Conan Baldhead. Suddenly the mare scrambled to 
her feet, and everybody laughed louder than before to see so many on 
that long back, holding her mane and holding each other. She stum- 
bled on for a bit and the sight was so comic that the stalkers and 
beaters and gillies of the camp laughed in the faces of the Fian. 

"Well, there's one thing I won't let the Fian of Ireland do and that 
is make a mock of my mare," bawled the Gruff Gillie. "That's not 
what I came here for. I'll go away, so I will, and I'll take my mare 
with me. And this will be a lesson to all honest Fomorians not to hire 
themselves to any pack of Irish." 

With the club in his hand the gillie walked away, bawling in front 
of his stumbling mare. He walked fast and she went a bit fast, too. 
He broke into a trot and she picked up to a trot, too. 

"And that's all I've got from the Fian," he shouted back to them. 
"Mockeryl Not even a meal." 

"We're wasting a fine morning, Finn," said Dermott, fidgeting with 

Heroes of Old 107 

the horn. All of the three battalions were on the ground now, and the 
hounds could hardly be held. A stag was out up there, and they knew 
it. But Conan was shouting from the back of the mare: 

"We can't get offl Come on and stop the marel" 

The Gruff Gillie took to running, and the mare with the fourteen 
on her back ran, too. 

As she ran she became more and more of a steed. There were no 
longer hollows in her sides; her head went up, and she came to look, 
not only a big, but a gallant and good-looking mare. 

"A murrain on you, Finn," shouted Conan. "Why don't you stir 
yourself? Or would you have us in the next townland before you 

The Gruff Gillie dropped his club, put his arms to his sides, and 
began to run. The mare stretched out her legs and went faster and 
faster, the fourteen making a jig-jog on her back. 

Conan let a great bawl out of him. 

"What sort of a captain are you, Finn MacCuhal, to let your men 
be carried off before your eyes?" 

"Rescuel" cried Finn. 

"Rescuel" cried Dermott. "Rescue, rescuel" shouted the others. With 
Finn at their head all made off after the mare and the Gruff Gillie. 
Down hollow and up height the mare went, the gillie before her, the 
Fian after her. One of the Fian who had been standing by when the 
fourteen got on the mare was able to keep up with her: he was 
Liagan the Swift. 

Finn and the others kept on, racing as they had never raced before. 
It was a chase they hadn't reckoned on, but it was a chase indeed. 
Here and there they had a glimpse of their quarry as the mare topped 
a hill or swam a river. No stag had ever brought them as far as the 
mare, and she was still going on. 

But the chase could not be given up; if he left Conan and the others 
in the power of a wild man, a Fomorian, Finn could never hold up 
his head again, let alone keep the chieftainship of the Fian of Ireland. 
He and his followers had to keep up the chase, no matter how long, no 
matter how breath-depriving, no matter how heart-breaking it was. 

They burst at last into the ravines of Kerry, and there was the sea 
before them. They gasped out something like a cheer, for the Gruff 
Gillie and his mare would have to halt now. But he didn't. He took 
hold of the rope and went into the sea. The mare with the fourteen of 
the Fian on her back went into the sea, too. 

Liagan took hold of the mare's tail. And as swiftly as they had raced, 

108 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

so swiftly did the gillie and his mare swim out, fourteen on her back 
and one holding to her tail. 

"We'll have to follow them," Finn said when he and his companions 
reached the beach. "We're sworn to rescue any of the Fian that are in 
danger. Take a breath now and give our shout so that Conan and the 
others will know that we'll be after them." As soon as their breath 
came back to them, the Fian on the beach gave a shout that went 
across the sea and maybe came to the ears of the fifteen that were on 
the back and at the tail of the mare that, as it was easy to see now, was 
an ordinary mare no more than her master was an ordinary gillie. 

The next part of the adventure was Dermott O'Duivna's. The Fian 
cut down trees and made a raft. When that was done they made sails 
out of their mantles, put on board the venison they had killed, took 
water, and sailed across the sea. At the end of a day they made a land- 
fall. A high cliff went up from a narrow strand. To climb it they 
would have to make ladders and hack out footholds. Dermott would 
not wait for all this to be done: the most sure-footed of the Fian, he 
climbed the cliff and came up on a high land where there was a wood 
with a mountain back of it. 

He went through the wood, following a path that led to a well. 
Above it, hanging from a branch, was a drinking-horn half covered 
with silver and lavishly ornamented. And the well was very clear, but 
so deep was its water that Dermott could not see to the bottom. It was 
a well that held him in wonder. 

But after a while he took the horn, dipped it in the well, and drank 
from it. 

As he did, there came a murmur from the well. Then there was a 
sound of branches being pulled aside and Dermott saw coming towards 
him a champion who had sword and shield and helmet, and whose face 
had a frown of anger. 

"So," he said, "without my leave you take my drinking-horn and 
drink from my well? This is not to be borne." And as the champion 
came towards Dermott he drew his sword. 

Dermott was amazed that a stranger should be treated in so un- 
courteous a fashion. All he had done was to take a drink of water from 
a well in a wood, and whose leave did he have to ask for that? Still, he 
would have liked to have shown the Champion of the Well that there 
was no impudent intent in what he had done. But he came towards 
him so furiously that there was nothing for Dermott to do but draw 
his own sword. 

They fought for long. But for all his fierceness the Champion of 
»he Well was not the equal in strength or swordsmanship of one of the 

Heroes of Old 109 

Fian. Dermott would have overcome him, but suddenly the champion 
flung his sword into the well and plunged in himself. Dermott watched 
him sink through the water. So deep down did he go that sight of him 
was lost. 

The next day Dermott hunted a deer in the wood. He killed it, hung 
the meat and made a fire. Then when he had cooked and eaten his 
meat he went to the well, took the drinking-horn, dipped it in and 
took a draught of the water. 

No sooner had he done this than a murmur came from the well; there 
was a sound of branches being struck aside, and he saw the Champion 
of the Well coming towards him. 

"So," he cried, "it is not enough that you should use my drinking- 
horn and take a draught out of my well, but you must kill my deer 

Dermott held up his hand in token of friendliness. But it was no use; 
with sword drawn the champion came to him. 

Dermott drew his sword; the two fought beside the well. But the 
strength and skill that men of the Fian had to have were not in the 
Champion of the Well. Suddenly, as on the day before, he flung his 
sword into the well, and before Dermott could hold him, he plunged 
into it. And, as before, Dermott watched him sink down until he went 
out of sight. 

He rested there. The next day Dermott cut from the hung meat, 
cooked it and ate. Then he went to the well wondering what adventure 
would befall him. 

Nothing happened until he took down the drinking-horn, and, dip- 
ping it in, drank the water of the well. Then, as before, a murmur 
came from the well, there was a sound of one making his way through 
branches, and the Champion of the Well came towards him, his sword 

"So," he cried, "you will not be gone from my well!" 

They fought as before. Dermott, dropping his own sword, sprang 
to hold him when the champion flung his sword into the well. But 
pulling him with him the champion plunged in. Down they sank. 
And when his senses were leaving him, Dermott was drawn through 
a passage of stone that went upward and found himself in the court- 
yard of a fortress. Armed men were there. 

"Keep this one here," the Champion of the Well said to them, "it 
may be that he is the only one of the Fian of Ireland that the King of 
Sorca has been able to bring against me." He went into the fortress 
then, and the men kept a watch on Dermott. 

As for Finn and the men who were with him, they made ladders 

110 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

and hacked out footholds, they climbed the cliff and came where 
Dermott left tokens of his movements. They came to the well, and 
standing around it, they raised the Fian's shout. They waited for 
Dermott's coming. And then they heard a shout, and out of a cave in 
the mountain a single horseman came towards them. 

He saluted Finn. "I will reveal myself," he said. "I am Abartach, 
the King of Sorca. I came to you as the Gruff Gillie so that I might 
draw Finn and the Fian of Ireland to my help. I am threatened by 
the King of Land-under- Wave who would take from me the treasures 
that make me supreme in Faerie — the Spear, the Stone and the 

"Why should we fight on your side against the King of Land-under- 
Wave?" Finn asked him. 

"Bethink thee, Finn," said the one whom they had known as the 
Gruff Gillie. "You have heard of Sorca and you have heard of Abar- 

He had; Finn knew he had. But what had he heard of Sorca and 
Abartach? Who had spoken these names? His mother? Bovmall? His 
uncle Crimmall? Someone talking beside a fire while a child listened. 
A story about help or hospitality given to his father. It was enough, 
that memory. Finn promised Abartach his help. 

The King of Sorca brought them into the cave. Then they went 
down through passages in the earth. After what seemed to be a day's 
travel they came to a fortress. There Finn and the Fian were royally 
entertained. A feast was given them and there was the music of harps 
and the chanting of poetry. But Dermott was not with them, and Finn 
and his companions were downcast because of that. 

As for Dermott he stayed in the courtyard of the fortress, disarmed 
but unguarded. The men were called to form an army that was to 
march away. Dermott, having eaten a meal they left for him, slept. 
In a dream he thought that a fair young woman came to him and stood 
above him. He wakened, and it was as he had dreamed. 

"Take me to where your chieftain, Finn, is," she said to Dermott. 

She had the three colors — the whiteness of snow, the redness of blood, 
the blackness of the raven that drinks the blood that has flowed upon 
the snow. She was noble in her stature and graceful in her movements. 
She told Dermott that she loved Finn because of all she had heard 
about him, and longed to be with him in Ireland. 

She was the sister of the King of Land-under-Wave; it was with him, 
as Champion of the Well, that Dermott had fought. Moriah was the 
fair young woman's name. 

Dermott told her he did not know where Finn was. Moriah knew. 

Heroes of Old 111 

He was in the fortress of the King of Sorca, and she, going with him, 
would show Dermott how to come to his chieftain. She led him out 
of the fortress and along a hidden path and brought him to where the 
army of the King of Sorca was arrayed. 

Dermott saw his comrades of the Fian of Ireland, and he saw Finn 
upon a hillock, looking over the lines of battle. Dermott went to him, 
and his chieftain was as glad to see him as if already he had won the 
battle. Moriah stayed where Dermott had placed her; under a rowan 
tree, with a ring of shields around her. 

And then the army of the King of Sorca, with Finn leading it and 
the Fian strengthening it, went into battle with the army of the King 
of Land-under-Wave. The armies fought and neither yielded to the 
other. Dermott sought out the enemy king. They fought as they had 
fought beside the well, and no more this time than the other times 
were the strength and the swordsmanship of the King of Land-under- 
Wave equal to Dermott's. 

Dermott's sword pierced his shield, and the king fell upon his knee. 
That was the end of the battle. 

Lifting up their king the army of Land-under-Wave drew back. "The 
treasures that make the supreme King of Faerie are Abartach's, are 
Abartach's," they cried as they drew back. 

A feast was given for the Fian by King Abartach, and Dermott 
brought Moriah to it and placed her beside Finn. Even if he hadn't 
won a victory Finn would have been happy to have one so fair and 
so gracious beside him. 

When the harps played Moriah chanted a poem; it was a poem of 
her own and it was meant for Finn only. It told how she, a maiden 
of Land-under-Wave, had heard of his deeds and had loved him for 
what she had heard of him. And it seemed as if Finn forgot he was a 
warrior and remembered that he was once a poet. Anyway, when the 
harps sounded again he chanted a poem to Moriah. 

"And I will be with you in Ireland," she said to him, and her face 
had all happiness in it. 

In the morning Finn and the Fian stood on the narrow strand and 
looked towards Ireland. Moriah, lifted up on shields, looked over, too. 

"What wages, Finn, would you have me give you?" Abartach asked. 

"I do not remember that I paid you any wages," Finn answered, "and 
so there is nothing due from you to me." 

"Speak for yourself, Finn," said Conan sourly. 

"Speak you for the Fian, Conan," said the King of Sorca. "What 
wage would you have me give them?" 

"Bring your mare here, and let fourteen women of your kingdom 

112 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

get on her back, and over with them to Ireland and across it. And let 
your own mare (I mean your queen) hold on where Liagan held." 

The fourteen who had been on the mare cheered Conan's words. 

Abartach smiled. "Behold your men, Finn!" he said. 

Finn looked to his men and his men looked to Finn. When they 
turned round again they were no longer on the narrow strand but on 
a wide beach with the hills of Kerry before them. And Abartach was 
no longer beside them. 

"Back to the Hill of Almu and to our own homes," Finn com- 
manded. His arm was around Moriah. He lifted her on his shield to 
give her a glimpse of Ireland. And then with shouts and songs they 
all marched towards Finn's house on the Hill of Almu. 

The Return of Oisin and His Meeting with 
Saint Patrick 

Precisely twelve men stood in a half-circle round a block of granite, 
in a valley which, because of the exceeding beauty of the song of 
multitudes of thrushes, to which its peculiar properties gave a rich 
depth and passion, had been named Gleann-n-Smol by the first human 
traveler that had wandered that way in the beginning of time. The 
block of granite was vast. It was hewn square and trimmed craftily. It 
stood exactly in the corner of a great clearing where the sod had been 
cut away to its bed of gravel at the base of the mountainside. It lay 
grey and comely in the soft evening light, shining against the orange 
gravel clearing that stretched like an inhuman wound by the pale 
green of the verdure into which it had been cut. 

Certain signs of recent removal lay about it — several strands of 
coarsely twisted rope, splintered timber, and torn clothing stained with 
blood. The grass below it had been trampled into mire. Yet the twelve 
men, standing in a half-circle, did not look triumphant, as at a task 
finely accomplished. They did not even look cross, like men well rid 
at last of one vexed work. One and all, they had the look of men in a 
dream, snared by some inner mystery that had left them astonished. 

They were of all sorts and sizes, these twelve men. There were young 
men in the flower of youth. There were old men, chewing the withered 
fruit of wisdom. There were middle-aged men, who, being neither in- 

From The Return of the Hero, by "Michael Ireland" (Darrell Figgis), pp. 1-24. 
Chapman & Dodd. London. 1923. 

Heroes of Old 113 

toxicated by the fragr-tnce of flowers nor reflective with the bitter- 
sweetness of their chewing, had a hard and grim expression on their 
faces. There were tall men. There were no short men, but there were 
men not so tall as others. They were all sweating, and they were all 
bemused, a state of the body and a state of mind that are not often 
found at the one moment together among men — or, for that matter, 
among women. 

Then one of them spoke. He was a middle-aged man, which ac- 
counted for his being the first to revive. He was, in fact, the most 
middle-aged of all the men. The signs of his revival were the cross and 
cantankerous lines that appeared across his brows. And this is what he 
said: "If I were in drink now I'd have said . . ." 

He did not complete the sentence. He fell back into the silence 
from which he had risen, and the cross and cantankerous lines were 
washed out by the original wonder of his reflections. The evening 
forgot his deep, resounding complaint. No one spoke. No one stirred. 

Then at last an old man said: "What would you have said?" 

"It is no matter," the other replied, "what I would have said. I 
would have said it just the same." 

"I wouldn't doubt you," said the next oldest of the middle-aged men 
along the line. "Not what I wouldn't have done the same." 

But the first speaker said nothing, and remained lost in the power 
of the light that had apparently lured his eyes. Notwithstanding this, 
the silence was now restless. It was like the silence of a sleeper first 
stirring himself into life, lying on the borderland of sleep and wake- 
fulness. The restlessness passed over the twelve men in waves till at 
last a young man burst into speech. He was a very young man. His 
face was sanguine; it was also pleasantly sunburnt; and his voice, that 
cried out abruptly, was full of the infinite yearning always associated 
with his time of life. He said: "Where is the beautiful hero that came 
riding out of the western world on a steed of surpassing vigor?" 

All the others looked askance at him, awkwardly, when he made 
this sudden exclamation. 

"There doesn't be such things," said the most middle-aged man 
among them. "And, anyway, it's against religion to believe that there 

This was a most remarkable saying. For whereas all the young men 
of the twelve looked as if they were religious in one way, and whereas 
all the old men looked religious in another way, none of the middle- 
aged men looked as if they were religious in any way at all. They all 
looked too beset with merely worldly care, and this was especially true 
of the speaker. So that it was not surprising when an old man said: 

114 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

"All harm from him, anyway, whether or no. We'd have been another 
week getting that old block of stone into its place but for him." 

"That's true," said one, looking at his torn vest and bruised arm. 

"It's true without doubt," said another, looking at the shaft of a 
broken pole he still held in his hand. 

"Haven't we the proof of him?" said a third, about whose arms were 
still coiled the strands of severed rope. 

"He came with a face like the dawn of day," said the first young 
man. "He came with hair like the rays of the sun and with eyes bright 
and blue like the sky. There were never flowers like the color of the 
clothes he wore. His steed was powerful and vigorous like original 
strength. He filled the valley with his presence when he came coursing 
down the ways of the world." 

"How he laughed when he saw us toiling with that old boulder," 
said an old man. " 'Is this the kind of men there are in Ireland?' says 
he. 'Wait till I set it for you,' says he." 

"His voice was like the music all other musics seek to be," said a 
young man quite ecstatically, and then became suddenly silent. 

An old man said: "He came beside me like a mountain for height 
and the west wind for speed. He lifted the cornerstone in his two hands 
and threw it where it is now with one turn of his hands and he leaning 
out from the saddle over the side of his steed. Didn't I near fall with 
the power of my strength gone from the cornerstone?" 

"That's all very well," said a middle-aged man. "But where is he 
now? Will you tell me that?" 

"He went through the air with that clap of thunder," said a young 

"Will you have sense and not be forever talking," said an old man. 
"That was no clap of thunder. That was the bursting of his saddle- 
girth with the weight of the boulder. Didn't I see him with these two 
eyes put out that proper leg of his to steady himself on the earth and 
leap back to his place, the way he wouldn't fall? Clap of thunder, in- 
deedl 'Tis the chief fault of young men that they are young." 

"It may be," said the young man. "But I heard a lament like all 
the sorrows of the world crying out . . ." 

He got no further. He was interrupted by the most middle-aged man 
of them all. 

"There doesn't be such things. It's against religion to say there is. 
And if there is itself, who'd believe us? And if there were any to be- 
lieve us, who'd own it? It was ourselves put that cornerstone for the 
new church where it is. True or false, it'll be a likelier tale for us to 
bear if we all say the same thing. . . ." 

Heroes of Old 115 

At this precise moment a prodigious groan broke out from behind 
them. It was like the bellow of a deer driven to bay and beset by 
hounds, for though it was full of pain, it was, however, majestic and 
most musical. All the twelve men, with their different sorts and sizes, 
and according to their different heights and manners and speeds and 
temperaments, at once turned round together. And there, stretched 
upon the grass, lay a man of enormous age and stature. His groan had 
been caused by his efforts to raise himself to a sitting position. 

The twelve men gathered round the curious figure stretched on the 
grass. With remarkable agreement they let their astonishment emerge 
through their open mouths; and as they kept their mouths open while 
the stretched figure was occupied, with the most alarming groans, in 
lifting himself upon his arms, it is to be concluded that their astonish- 
ment did not cease to issue during all that time. 

Never could imagination have conceived an appearance of such age 
as that figure presented. A long, untidy beard of the purest white 
flowed down over his breast like a stream of snow among withered 
winter flowers. There were more lines, puckers, and wrinkles on the 
leathery skin of his face than an astrologer could have devised in draw- 
ing the most complicated horoscope. His white, abundant hair still 
swept the grass gently as he lifted himself painfully upon his elbows. 
He was inconceivably withered and shrunken, and his skin hung in 
loose folds about him. He looked as if his frame, through long periods 
of time, had retreated upon itself, shuddering as it went. Yet, shrunken 
though he was, and withered though he was, it was apparent that he 
was fully more than twice as tall as the tallest of the twelve men. 

His clothes were as aged as himself. They were not worn; they were 
merely withered. They were not frayed with use; they were simply 
faded with time. They were like flowers that still recalled summer's 
profusion of color though at the point of crumbling into original dust. 
A mantle fell over his shoulders that unquestionably had one time 
been purple. It fell to his ankles, and opened in front to display a 
silken tunic embroidered with gold. This tunic was now cream, though 
it may once have been white, and the embroidery was wrought in 
sinuous whorls that flowed endlessly and gracefully and returned upon 
their beginnings. The gold was faded. It was, in fact, old gold. The 
tunic fell to his knees, and was caught about his waist with a golden 
girdle wrought and jeweled to match the great broach that clasped the 
mantle upon his left shoulder. Beneath the tunic was a vest of many 
colors, all faded now like the dreams of youthful splendor. His shoes 
were also shrunken and withered. They were held together in comely 
shape by the silver chasing with which they had been worked, and 

116 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

which now tore the retreated leather. Yet they had not retreated as 
fast or as far as the feet within them, for they hung loosely at the 
end of the bony shanks from which the windings had fallen, and were 
coiled about the ankles. In like manner the band of gold that had 
clasped his brow had fallen off, and lay at a distance on the grass. 

"In the name of God," said the oldest of the twelve men, devoutly 
crossing himself, "what is this at all?" 

"The saints preserve us," said the middle-aged man, also crossing 
himself, "but there'll be trouble on the head of this day, I suppose." 

"Where is the beautiful hero that came riding from the western 
world?" said the youngest of the twelve men. 

After these remarkable sayings the silence was only broken by ihc 
woeful creaking of aged joints as the stranger succeeded at last in 
poising himself upon his hams. He then attentively regarded the 
twelve men. They were restive under that regard, for the wonder it 
expressed was the wonder of a scornful mind. 

The stranger opened his wrinkled lips to speak, but at first there 
only came from them a sound like the western wind through winter's 
woods. Twice he essayed to govern that rushing sound, and then these 
words were framed in a mighty whisper: "This should be Gleann-na- 
Smol, but who are ye at all?" 

"Good neighbors," said an old man, and repeated: "Good neighbors. 
You're very heartily welcome, whoever you are. I'll suppose we'll know 
sometime, and it wouldn't be right to trouble you now." 

"Dare you ask who I am?" said the stranger, and the twelve men 
were shaken by the sudden bellow of his indignation. "I am Oisin." 

"Didn't I say," said the middle-aged man, "that there'd be trouble 
at the head of this day?" He did not speak in protest. He spoke with 
religious resignation. 

"Which Oisin might that be?" said the same old man who had 
spoken before. "It isn't a familiar name in this part of the country, 
though it's a very good name." 

The stranger who was called Oisin looked at him in astonishment. 
"Ah, the Battle of Gowra ruined us, and those who lived after didn't 
escape the Battle of Cnoc-an-Air," he said, and he fell into lamenta- 
tions that lasted a considerable time. 

The twelve men courteously did not break in upon those lamenta- 
tions, and it was as well they did not, for they would not have been 
able to make themselves heard. Then when the stranger's sorrow had 
somewhat abated he turned to them and said: "Is this Ireland of the 
heroes and the mighty men?" 

"I suppose it is," said one distressfully. 

Heroes of Old 117 

"It is Ireland, anyway," said an old man with conviction. 

"It is Ireland, O Oisin," a young man said simply and proudly. 

Oisin looked long at the last speaker, and were his gaze divisible 
into parts, one-third of those parts would have uttered approval, 
whereas two-thirds would have been loud with scorn. Those aged eyes 
became almost young again as they flashed inspection of the youth 
from crown to toe. Then the aged head shook from side to side in a 
dejected manner. 

"It is not as it was in my time, for Banba is diminished, and Fodhla 
is shorn of her beauty. The vigor of youth, where is it, and where have 
they fled, the splendor and stature of men in their strength? Has the 
oak become like the ash, and does the elm sway like the spruce that 
the tribes of Ir and Heremon should have passed into the likeness 
of these twelve mannikins that I see before me? Is the eagle of Gullion 
become a kite, and is the hawk no more than the magpie? Ochone, O 
Finn, my father, Finn the wise, the son of the mighty Cumhal. Ochone, 
O Oscar, my darling, who slew Meargach of the spears when there was 
none other to prevail against him. And ochone, O Caoilte, my com- 
rade, and the ranks of the great Fianna. Would that I were with ye 
wherever ye are, instead of in the company of these mannikins, for 
sweet Eire was littler to us in a single day's hunting than Gleann-na- 
Smol is great to them. Whither shall I find you, O Heroes, and where 
are you to be discovered, O Mighty Men? Ochone, that I am from you, 
and that I am left after." 

It was in this manner that he made lament for a little while; and 
as he did so, the oldest of the twelve men drew near to him. 

"Is it of the Fianna of Ireland you speak?" said this oldest man. 
"And were you indeed of that company?" 

Oisin made no answer, but looked at him in sorrowful pride. 

"Because," continued the old man, "it is many hundreds of years 
since they were in Ireland by all accounts." 

Oisin looked at him in stern reproof. "We," he thundered, "the 
Fianna that is, never used to tell untruth, and falsehood was never 
attributed to us. By truth and the might of our hands we came safe 
out of every conflict. There were but few left after the woeful field of 
Gowra, but take me to them, for it is plain to see that ye are but of 
the Fir Bolg and the sprites and lying goblins of the Glens." 

Even as he spoke he heard the thin sound of a bell behind him; and 
as all the twelve men were looking that way, he, too, turned to see what 
it might be had attracted their attention. 

To Oisin it seemed that he had never seen anything more remark- 

118 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

able than this procession. It was led by diminutive children in white 
robes. Their shrill voices were singing a most mournful tune with in- 
credible slowness. They were followed by bearded men, also in white 
robes and also singing, whose voices mixed incongruously with the 
piercing tones of the children. It was not a dirge they were singing. 
It had not the splendor, not the abandon, of a dirge. But it was very 
like a dirge. Other children came, swinging golden vessels, and Oisin's 
nostrils were assailed by a sharp aromatic odor. 

Then other men followed, who had heavily brocaded decorations 
thrown over their white robes like the armor worn by warriors over- 
seas who were not quick enough to avoid the lurching spear. Chief 
among these he noticed one of a grave and dignified aspect. In his right 
hand he carried a strange weapon, the like of which Oisin had never 
seen. For the greater part of its length it was shaped like a spear, 
except that it was too weighty for the man who bore it with difficulty. 
Besides, it was curved into a pattern at the top, and whoever saw a 
spear curved into a pattern where it should have been barbed and 
sharp? It might have been a shepherd's crook, to which it bore a 
distant resemblance. But whoever saw a shepherd's crook wrought in 
costly gold, and of so unwieldly a size? Yet there was something about 
this man that moved to respect. He was the tallest man Oisin had yet 
seen, and he bore his body with the authority of a noble mind. A 
grey pointed beard flowed down to the arch of the solar plexus; for, as 
a warrior, Oisin had already noted carefully where the solar plexus was. 
His eyes were grey. They were grey like a well-tempered sword, and 
their glance was as menacing when the pensive lids lifted, and the grey 
eyes flashed towards him in enquiry. Decidedly he was an unusual man, 
and Oisin quickened with affection for him. 

Saint Patrick 

What do most of us know about the apostle with the adopted Roman 
name whose memory has been cherished for over fifteen hundred years 
by Irish people? For most of us the picture of a white-bearded person- 
age banishing a wriggling snake covers a great deal of what we know 
about him. Or else we see him as an open-air preacher holding up a 
shamrock by way of illustrating the doctrine of the Trinity. This 
second image can be more easily disposed of. Undoubtedly he was a 

By the editor. 

Heroes of Old 119 

strong Trinitarian (Churchmen had to be strong for this point of 
faith in the fifth century) , but it is unlikely that Patrick would have 
made use of such an inadequate illustration: Irish people wore the 
shamrock because it had a resemblance to a cross; its association with 
the Trinity is through an afterthought. The first image, the one that 
has the snake in it, requires a little more comment. 

There were never any snakes in Ireland, and so our saint was under 
no necessity to banish them. Now the Norse word for "toad" is "paud"; 
coming to Ireland they noticed there were no such creatures there. 
They heard of a man whose name was "Paudrig." and they thought 
that this name meant "toad-expeller," and out of that misunderstand- 
ing came the legend of Patrick's banishing not only toads but snakes. 
Of course that helped to add veneration to his name, for the snake 
was the emblem of evil. And so the most popular of the stories about 
Ireland's apostle has a Norse and not an Irish origin. 

We have to get past both the shamrock and the snake to perceive 
what sort of a man the apostle really was. He was a man of great con- 
viction, great energy, great charity; he combined great visionary power 
with a practical sense and a soldierly audacity; he could have been a 
good general and a remarkable poet. He was a saint because he loved 
men and loved God. He brought Christianity to a people ubi nemo 
ultra erat— "beyond which no man dwelt." Beyond the limit of the 
Roman world was a country that had not known the Roman order. 
Patrick who had been a captive in that land, who knew its people and 
their language, dedicated his prime of life to making himself fit for 
missionary service in it. In a vision he saw one coming to him with 
papers bearing the inscription "the voice of the Irish"; he felt himself 
possessed by a spirit urging him to go back amongst a people who had 
held him as a slave. 

He belonged to the time of Saint Ambrose, Saint Augustine, Pope 
Leo the Great, to the period of important Church councils. As a mis- 
sionary he was the accredited representative of a Church that had a 
great organization, a highly developed doctrine, a remarkable per- 
sonnel. He was associated with a group of Churchmen who were striv- 
ing to bring a new order into Europe. There was a conference at which 
the project of a mission to Ireland was discussed. Patrick knew he was 
the man for the mission: his captivity in the country, his knowledge 
of the language, the voices that had come to him made him know 
himself as the man singled out by God for this work. How terrible his 
disappointment must have been when, on the advice of one whom he 
had trusted, he was passed over and another missionary was sent to 
Ireland. At the end of his life, even when he knew he had done the 

120 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

work that had been appointed to him, he remembered the bitterness 
of that disappointment. But the first missionary failed; then he was 
consecrated bishop and commissioned to go to Ireland. Patrick was 
about forty-five years of age then. 

His conversion of Ireland was not a local event; ultimately it was 
a European event. Christopher Dawson in one of his essays has shown 
us that it was only when Churchmen were forced away from the typical 
organization of Christianity, the Greek and Roman urban organiza- 
tion, that they were able to deal with the barbarians of the North. 
Well, Patrick went into a country that had no towns, no urban life; 
he had to build up a church that was different in its organization from 
the churches of Romanized Europe. In after centuries the Irish mis- 
sionaries and the Saxon missionaries who had been trained by them 
were able to reach hunters, fishers, and tillers by being able to think, 
speak, and act like them. 

A hump-shaped eminence of basalt with scant herbage and scrub 
upon it — this is Slieve Mis, or Slemish, and we come upon it suddenly 
as we pass from Antrim into Down. It was from the slopes of this 
eminence that the youthful captive who afterwards took the name of 
Patrick watched over his master's flocks or droves. Often he prayed 
up there; his prayers were said in frost and hail and snow, sometimes 
as many as a hundred a day. And then he made an escape from the 
place. When he returned to Ireland, a bishop and a missionary of 
Rome, he went towards this mount, sailing up the river we see, the 
river Quoile. The ruler of the territory, believing that his former cap- 
tive was returning with strange, immense powers and with vengeance 
in his heart, fired his house and gave himself to the flames. Then an- 
other local magnate presented the missionary with a barn; in it he 
celebrated Christian rites, establishing his first church in Ireland. 
Years later, an old man, he came back to the place of his first founda- 
tion; he died here and was buried nearby. 

Often, as a youthful captive who was swineherd or shepherd, he must 
have climbed these rugged slopes to look towards the land from which 
he had been taken. The Roman communities in Britain, although a 
doom hung over them, to him represented civilization. His dream was 
to return. Once he heard a directing voice; he made a flight; he found 
a ship (helped, Oliver St. John Gogarty has suggested, by an "under- 
ground") about to sail from Ireland. After he came to it he had 
moments of tragic suspense. He was willing to work his passage to the 
port to which the vessel was bound. His proposal was entertained by 
the mariners, but afterwards the ship-master objected, saying sharply. 

Heroes of Old 


"Nay, in no wise shah thou come with us." The disappointment, com- 
ing as the end of his captivity seemed to be in sight, was bitter. He 
turned away from the mariners to seek shelter. As he went he prayed, 
and before he had finished his prayer he heard one of the crew shout- 
ing behind him, "Come quickly, for they are calling you." The ship- 
master had been persuaded to forego his objection, and Patrick, now 
about twenty-one years of age, set sail from Ireland in rough company. 
The ship, the cargo, and the voyage were as strange as any romance- 
writer need devise: dogs were part of the cargo— great Irish wolf- 
hounds. The crew wished to enter into a compact of friendship with 
him, but he refused; probably it involved some Pagan rite. They 
reached port (on the continent) and then made a journey overland; 
they wandered through a desert country for eight and twenty days; 
many of the dogs became exhausted and were left to die o.i the road. 
What was the desert land they traversed? Probably Southern Gaul. "It 
was the last night of the year 406 that the Vandals, Suevi, Alans, and 
Burgundians burst into Gaul." The picture of the desolation that he 
gives has helped Professor MacNeill to date Patrick's journey. 
' Apparently Patrick and his company went into Italy; afterwards he 
wandered back to the South of France. For a while he stayed at the 
monastery of Lerens; then, after great labors, he won home again to 
his friends in Britain. 

Patrick Taken Captive 

Patrick's native place according to the Irish scholar, Eoin MacNeill, 
was Abergavenny, in the country that is now Wales. Here, along ways 
that still communicated with the Roman center, lived communities 
loyally Roman, devotedly Christian. Patrick spoke the language of 
the British Celts as well as the Latin tongue. But at the time he was 
taken captive— he was fifteen then, it is surmised— he had not been 
trained in the schools. He speaks in his Confession of his inability to 
write good Latin, "apologizing that he has not had the double ad- 
vantage that others (of his calling and station) have had, who, as is 
most fitting, have been educated in sacred literature, and have not lost 
the Latin speech of their childhood, but have rather constantly ac- 
quired a more refined use of it, whereas he, as his style, he says, betrays, 
was forced in his youth to adopt a strange language in place of Latin." 
"His style, indeed, suggests," remarks Professor MacNeill, "that, like 
many a candidate for examination in our time, his conscious weakness 
in Latin composition caused him to fill out his sentences with phrases 
taken from other writings, and not always apt to express the intended 

122 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

sense." Well, on this Roman and Christian community that still had 
communication with the Roman center, Irish raiders descended in 401. 
The raiders were probably under the command of the high-king Niall. 
"The object of the raid was to secure a large booty in slaves and other 
things of value." The household of the decurion Calpurnius hardly 
survived the raid: its youthful heir (Patrick) was carried off together 
with its man-servants and maid-servants. Thousands of captives were 
brought from Britain by these particular raiders. They were sold as 
slaves, Patrick tells us, and scattered among many tribes, even to the 
farthest part of Ireland. 

At the time he began his mission, the most powerful king in Ireland 
was Laegaire (Leary) , the second in succession from Niall who had 
carried Patrick over thirty years before. Laegaire claimed to be Ard-ri, 
high-king or emperor of the Irish, and his seat was at Tara. Patrick 
went to Tara and preached before him. Laegaire did not adopt the 
new creed, but he put no obstacles in the way of Patrick's mission. 

He sat with three kings to revise the laws of Ireland. That revision 
was an acknowledgment that his mission had been successful, for it 
was to incorporate teachings in the national law. But still Patrick 
looked on himself as an exile and a man of little account. The world 
that he felt he belonged to — the world of his father, the decurion — 
was perishing in his sight: the Roman legions had been withdrawn 
from Britain, and Germanic Pagans with Gaels and Picts were rending 
what had been left of the Roman order. Nay, Christianity itself was no 
restraint upon men who had knowledge of the Latin language and 
who claimed some shadow of Roman authority. The soldiers of the 
King of North Britain massacred Patrick's converts and mocked the 
envoy whom he had sent to rebuke them. "In hostile guise they are 
dead while they live, allies of Scots and apostate Picts, as though wish- 
ing to gorge themselves on the blood of innocent Christians whom I 
in countless numbers begot to God and confirmed in Christ." So Patrick 
writes in one of the great letters that have come down to us from those 
days, his letter to Coroticus. This was a British prince who had raided 
Ireland and carried off as captives a number of converts, youths and 
maidens. We today might think that that would be a commonplace of 
the fifth century, something that a busy man would hardly get wrought 
up about, like the bombing of a town in our day. But injustice and 
violence would always be battled against by Patrick. With an indigna- 
tion that makes us ashamed of our own Iukewarmness, he denounces 
the tyrant of that day. "You deliver the members of Christ as it were 
to a house of ill-fame. What manner of hope in God have you, or any 
who cooperate with you? God will judge." 

Heroes of Old 123 

Through fifteen hundred years the Christianity that was the core of 
Patrick comes over to us. "Aye, and where shall Coroticus with his most 
villainous followers, rebels against Christ, where shall they see them- 
selves, who distribute baptized damsels as rewards, and that for the 
sake of miserable temporal things which verily pass away in a moment 
like a cloud of smoke which is dispersed by the wind." Then he makes 
appeal to all whom his letter may reach "That they may liberate the 
baptized captive women whom they have taken, so that they may de- 
serve to live to God and be made whole here and in eternity." 

In that letter comes the bitter cry of the exile, although perhaps 
twenty years had been spent in labor in Ireland and he was now an 
old man. "Did I come to Ireland without God or according to the 
flesh? Who compelled me — I am bound by the spirit — not to see any 
of my kinsfolk? Is it from me that I show godly compassion towards 
the nation who once took me captive and harried the men-servants and 
maid-servants of my father's house? I was free-born according to the 
flesh. I am born of a father who was a decurion, but I sold my nobility, 
I blush not to state it, nor am I sorry for it, for the profit of others." 

When he died many communities contended for the glory of having 
his burial in their grounds. Tradition says that, leaving it to Providence 
to resolve their claims, the bier was laid on a wagon to which four 
white oxen were yoked: from the church that was his first foundation, 
the oxen with their burthen were turned and were permitted to fare 
on without human direction. On a slope above the river Quoile they 
stayed and there, in Downpatrick, the body of Patrick was laid in 
earth. A community grew up around the burial place, and the round 
tower that still stands was raised. The National Museum in Dublin 
has the little bell that he held in his hand when he summoned his 
congregation in the Ireland of fifteen hundred years ago — always and 
by all visitors it is looked at with special reverence. Beside it is a 
reliquary made in honor of the saint by one of the Norman lords of 
the West of Ireland — one of the De Berminghams. It is covered over 
with the figures of the French saints who were thought most of at the 
time — one thinks of how present Patrick is in comparison with any of 
them, and of how deep is the veneration in which he has been held by 
all comers into Ireland. "I, Patrick, a sinner, the most rustic, and the 
least of all the faithful, and in the estimation of very many deemed 

124 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

Saint Colum-cille Foretells What Saint Patrick Will Do 
for the Men and Women of Ireland 
on the Day of Judgment 

Before they went to visit certain of the saints of Ireland, Colum-cille 
(Saint Columba) and Bauheen, his cousin, betook themselves to 
Armagh, that place that was consecrated by Saint Patrick and in which 
the bell that he blessed was still rung. It was on a Sunday, and they 
walked near the church that Saint Patrick had founded and the grave- 
yard where his close companions were laid. Suddenly the ground gaped, 
the headstones fell, the cairns crumbled. The book he was reading 
Bauheen dropped into a grave that burst open; he scrambled down to 
get it and was struck on the head with the broken arm of a stone cross. 
He tried to pull himself out by gripping a branch, but the tree fell 
down on him. 

"Why doesn't he do something to give his companions quiet and 
peace in their graves?" Bauheen said when he got the earth out of his 

"Whom do you speak of?" Colum-cille asked, drawing his companion 
out of the way of a yew-tree that heaved itself at them. 

"Patrick," said Bauheen, rubbing the sore place on his elbow. "Are 
we not in his stead? And why doesn't he do something to give his com- 
panions quiet and peace in their graves?" 

"If you knew what Saint Patrick will do for the people of Ireland 
on the Day of Doom . . ." 

"There," said Bauheen, as the branch of a lifted thorn-bush poked 
itself into Colum-cille's eyes, "I knew you'd get it, too." 

"Nevertheless, you must not belittle Patrick, the protector of the 
people of Ireland," said Colum-cille, and he made two long jumps and 
got out of the graveyard, Bauheen with three jumps coming behind 

"If you knew as I know what effort he will make on the Day of the 
Last Judgment for the people of Ireland, you would not murmur 
against Saint Patrick," Colum-cille said when they were out of the 

"Tell me, then," said Bauheen, "what effort he will make for the 
people of Ireland on that Last Day?" 

From The Legend of Saint Columba, by Padraic Colum, pp. 57-62. Copyright, 
1935, by The Macmillan Co. New York. 

Heroes of Old 125 

"Some part of it I can tell you, but not all," said Colum-cille. 
"Harken, Bauheen, to what I shall deliver to you, and never after- 
wards let a word pass your lips in belittlement of Patrick." 

Away from the place of gaping graves and crumbling cairns and 
breaking crosses they seated themselves, and under the shade of a well- 
rooted ash-tree Colum-cille told his companion this prophetic story. 

"The men and women of Ireland will assemble themselves at Clon- 
macnoise . . ." Colum-cille began. 

"At Clonmacnoise?" said Bauheen in great surprise. 
"At Clonmacnoise," said Colum-cille decidedly. "They will do that 
in honor of the greatest saint living in Ireland at the present time — 
Saint Ciaran. There the folk of Ireland will assemble themselves on the 
Day of Doom. And to Clonmacnoise, Patrick will go. Seeing him the 
people will know him for their leader. He will strike the bell that he 
broke upon the demons when he banished them from the mountain. 
At the sound of that bell the men and women of Ireland will crowd 
towards their leader, and lucky will they feel on that day, they who 
were truly followers of Patrick, who kept his feast-day with alms- 
giving and his good-will belittled never." 

"Amenl" said Bauheen. 

Colum-cille went on. "With Patrick we shall march, all of us. We 
shall journey to where Saint Martin has his station. With him we 
shall join and thence go to where the most holy Peter and the most 
holy Paul have their place. Guided by these two primal saints we shall 
make our way to Mount Olivet. 

"Saint Peter, Saint Paul and Saint Martin will go to where Our 
Lord is enthroned. But with us, the men and women of Ireland, 
Patrick will stay. He will be seated on a chair of gold above the throng. 
Summoning Saint Ailbe to him, he will send him with seven bishops 
to the feet of our Lord on Mount Sion." 

"Tell on," urged Bauheen. 

"He will send Ailbe to inquire what will Our Lord has towards the 
men and women in his charge. And when he has bade him welcome to 
Ailbe, Our Lord will say, 'Where is the lightning-flash of the Western 
World? He is long in appearing before us.' 

" 'What is Thy word for him, O Lord?' " Ailbe will ask. 

" 'Many sinners are with him,' Our Lord will say. 'My word to him 
is this: leave behind ere coming before us all those who have wrought 
evil in their lives.' 

" 'How shall I say that to Patrick, O Lord,' Ailbe will say. 'Thou 

126 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

knowest he whom Thou hast named the Lightning-flash of the Western 
World is a wrathful and quick-tempered man.' 

' 'Nevertheless, thou shah take My word back to him,' the Lord 
will say. 

"With trepidation Ailbe will salute Patrick and say, 'I have had 
converse with Our Lord, and He bade me to tell thee to leave behind 
ere thou goest before Him all who have wrought evil in their lives.' 

' 'It appears I have not been given even the beginning of a welcome 
to Mount Sion,' Patrick will say, 'And you, Ailbe, have failed me in 

"Then he will speak to Ciaran, Cainneach, and myself, and declare 
that all the people of Ireland, sinners as well as sinless, must be with 
him when he goes before Our Lord. He would have none parted from 
him until he had spoken on their behalf. 

"He will send Munda to Mount Sion then, Munda who was his 
companion when he came to make Ireland Christian. It will be 
Munda's duty to remind Our Lord that a promise was made to Patrick 
on his coming to our land — a promise that he would be the advocate 
for all our people on the Day of Judgment. 

' 'You who come from Patrick are not negligent in reminding Us of 
the promise made to him,' Our Lord will say. And he shall tell Munda 
that his word to Patrick is that he will have to put out of his following 
all who wrought evil in their lives." 

"And then . . .?" 

"Then," said Colum-cille, "I shall find myself beside the golden chair 
on which Patrick is seated, and I shall hear myself being directed to go 
unto Our Lord on Mount Sion, but what I am being told to say or do, 
I shall not be able to recollect, for the sound of all the waves of the 
world will be in my ears. I shall find myself standing at the feet of Our 
Lord, and when He speaks to me I shall be able to speak of one thing 
only, namely, of Patrick's great love for all the people of Ireland, 
sinners at well as sinless, the love that brought him to keep a long and 
wasting fast upon the mountain that is named Cruachan, to the end 
that no one born in Ireland after the coming of the Faith should lose 
utterly the friendship of Our Lord. And this being said there will be 
such a silence that I will believe that sound has utterly departed from 
the world. And then I shall hear Our Lord make answer, and he will 
say: 'We will consult with the Nine Hierarchies of Heaven about what 
We shall do about this Patrick and his following.' And he shall say to 
me in a kindly voice, 'Go back to him, and bid him come to Us with 
the whole of the host that is his people. Ah, but tell him, too, that he 
will have to do this. . . .' " 

Heroes of Old 127 

Thereupon Colum-cille paused, and Bauheen, in great anxiety, 
asked him: "What will Patrick have to do for the people of Ireland 
upon that Day?" 

Colum-cille opened his mouth to speak. But at that moment the 
bell of Armagh that is called the Bernan, sounded. 

"That stroke is to remind us," said Colum-cille, "that it is fitter for 
us to be inside Saint Patrick's church, praying as Saint Patrick taught 
us to pray, than to be foretelling what he will do for us on the Day of 

"But what will he do for us on the Day of Judgment?" Bauheen 
asked as they went over the ground that was hollow and lumpy but 
no longer heaving. 

"God decreed that the bell should be struck at this moment to forbid 
my telling what more the Lightning-flash of the Western World will 
do for the people of Ireland on the Judgment Day," Colum-cille said, 
and saying this, he and Bauheen went into the church and listened to 
the hymn that was being sung in praise of Saint Patrick. 

How Colum-cille Saved the Poets' Guild 

Colum-cille, holding himself responsible for a battle waged against 
the high-king, exiled himself, making a vow that he would not look 
upon the land of Ireland or the face of anyone dwelling in Ireland 
for the rest of his life. However, two questions came up in which 
Colum-cille had a vital interest: the first was the relation of the Irish 
kingdom in Alba, Dalriada, to the King of Ireland, and the second 
was the proposed dissolution of the guild of poets. Colum-cille was a 
member of the guild, and as head of the monastic settlement in Iona 
he was the mediator between the Gaels of Ireland and the Gaels of 
Scotland. The angel who attended him took means to make it clear to 
him that it was his duty to go to Ireland and attend the council at 
which these questions were to be debated. — P.C. 

In the night the angel stood beside where Colum-cille lay. In his 
hand he held a book of crystal. He motioned to put the book in Colum- 
cillc's hand and have him open and read it. But Colum-cille would not 
take the book, he knew that what was written therein was a sentence 
which he had no wish to obey. 

Ibid* pp. 106-117. 

128 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

The angel went and the night passed. And on a second night the 
angel appeared with the crystal book and proffered it to him. But 
Colum-cille would not take it, and the angel went and the night passed. 
On a third night he came again and held the book to him. Colum-cille 
kept his hand away from it. Then the angel took a scourge from out 
of the folds of his garments and struck Colum-cille on the side with it. 
The stroke the angel dealt did him much hurt, and on the morning he 
saw a welt left by the stroke — it was all down his right side. 

He repented that he was disobedient to Axal's will; he prayed that 
the angel might come to him again. And when on a fourth night the 
angel held the crystal book to him, he took it in his hand and opened 
it; he read the sentence that was therein. It was: "Prepare to return 
to thine own land and stay there for a while." 

So Colum-cille knew he would have to go back to Ireland in spite 
of the vow he had made not to look on the face of a man or woman 
standing on Irish ground. And soon afterwards it was made known to 
him that the King of Ireland, Ae MacAinmire, had summoned a coun- 
cil to meet at Drumceat. Envoys came to Iona from the people of 
Ireland telling him of their sorrow because of his absence, begging 
him to return, and, for their sake, take part in the council. King Aedan 
of Dalriada came to Iona to urge him to come with him to Ireland. 

Colum-cille resolved that all the time he would be in Ireland his 
cowl would be drawn down over his eyes so as to keep his vow he 
would look on no man or woman in Ireland. And when that tall 
figure with face half covered by a cowl stepped on the green where the 
council was being held, there was an outburst of welcome from all the 
gathering. The King of Ireland's son, Donald, came to meet him and 
escort him to the pavilion where the kings and princes and high 
prelates held their session. The King of Ireland rose up and welcomed 
him and welcomed King Aedan, and the welcome he gave to Colum- 
cille was not less than the welcome he gave to King Aedan. 

Aedan spoke to the council, advocating that the King of Ireland 
should forego his power of going into Dalriada. The men of Ireland 
murmured in opposition to this. Then a man who was learned in 
history and affairs spoke: Colman was his name. And Colman said 
that the King of Ireland should renounce his right of going into Dal- 
riada, but that the men of Dalriada should pay him tribute, and that 
if the King of Alba went to the aid of the King of Ireland, the men of 
Dalriada should supply him with ships and give rations to his army. 

Colum-cille then spoke to the council. And so loving were the men 
of Ireland to him and so trustful of his judgment that they were ready 
to be ruled by what he said. And what he said was all in support of 

Heroes of Old 129 

Colman's argument. Many spoke against Colraan and Colum-cille as 
against Aedan, but they were not able to remove from the minds of 
most of the council the effect produced by the deep voice and the 
solemn words that came from the man with the cowl down over his 
eyes. At the end of the day the King of Ireland and his own councillors 
agreed to renounce the right of going into Dalriada and to accept the 
tribute and service that were offered in return for that renunciation. 
The King of Ireland and the King of Alba joined their hands together 
while Column-cille said words that were to be long remembered: "Let 
there be peace in perpetuity between the men of Eirinn and the men of 

It was then that the council came to deal with the case of the poets 
of Ireland. Colum-cille made plea that their order should not be 
abolished nor their guild dissolved, and that none of them should be 
banished out of Ireland. 

"It is no easy thing to maintain them," said King Ae. "Their guild 
is too ungovernable; their demand upon rulers and people are exorbi- 
tant. You know very well, Colum-cille, that unless they are given 
large donations they make reviling and scoffing verses on people. I 
myself have suffered from their satire. This broach of mine, which is 
the handiwork of the greatest of artificers and which has been a treas- 
ured possession in my family for many generations, has been made the 
subject of a very mocking ballad. And," said Ae MacAinmire, " 'tis 
very little would start them deriding the crown that is upon my head." 
When he said this, the blind Dalian Forgail, the Chief Poet of Ireland, 
groaned aloud, turning his head this way and that way to find out if 
there was anyone in the council who was favorable to the poets. 

Then Colum-cille, as one belonging to the guild of poets, stood up 
and spoke. He said: "A skull dug out of a hill is all that is Cormac 
MacAirt — a skull and a lettering upon a stone. But Cormac MacAirt, 
the noble, the generous, the beautiful, goes among us, making everyone 
of us strive to be of his pattern. And what has made Cormac a pattern 
to men? Not his possessions, for they are long since gone. The praises 
the poets gave him are Cormac's lasting possession, and it is the poets 
who have given Cormac the life he has for us. If there had been no 
poets to praise him, that king, like many another, would now be only 
a skull and lettering upon a stone." 

When Colum-cille said this, a prelate answered: "We have other 
things to think of besides fables, Colum-cille." 

Then, his voice rising to a chant, Colum-cille answered: 

130 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

If the poets' verse be fable, 
Then is all your knowledge fable. 
All your rights and state and power, 
And this drifting world is fable. 

For their fable which is lasting 
Give the fable that is passing! 
Kingly scarlet, scholars' blue 
Will make no show in hereafter. 

God has dowered sons of Adam 
With a craft for them to work on; 
Honor then the craft that's proven, 
Give the craftsman means to live by. 

When Colum-cille had spoken in this wise the mind of the council 
was no longer hardened against the poets. Then it was agreed that 
whatever judgment Colum-cille gave, the council and the guild of 
poets would abide by it. Colum-cille gave this judgment: 

That the principal poet of one district should not go into another 
district for goods or preferment without leave of his lord; that if he 
made a poem that was of interest to the people of another district, the 
lord of that district would send his principal poet to meet him at the 
border and have him recite the poem. And if he judged it worthy, that 
other poet was to reward him who made it and bring it back to his 
lord. And if this other poet did not find it worthy, the one who made 
it was to go back without any reward. 

That the poets were no longer to go about in bands, quartering 
themselves for long seasons on this or that ruler; that none of them 
should be banished; that their privileged order should be kept in 
existence, and that their guild should not be dissolved. 

The council accepted this judgment and the poets were content with 
it. Their franchise was curtailed, but they had still their guild; their 
order remained a privileged one, and, happily, none of them were 
banished out of Ireland. 

The next day the head professor of every grade of the Bardic Assem- 
bly came and recited a poem of eulogy of Colum-cille. Standing before 
him, one and then the other of them recited his praise. And when he 
heard the praises of himself chanted by the poets of Ireland, the heart 
of Colum-cille swelled and his mind became lit up, and such was his 
exultation that the air above his head became filled with evil spirits 
who gloated over his loss of humility and his access of vainglory. 

Heroes of Old 131 

Bauheen, his tight-lipped cousin, who was beside him, perceived this; 
he rebuked him sharply, telling him that it was not right that he 
should take such account of the world's praises, and that he should 
consider only his duty to God. And when he heard that rebuke and 
knew its justice, Colum-cille covered his head with his mantle and wept 
sorely, repenting of the vanity that he had given way to. As he wept, 
the evil spirits that were above his head dispersed, leaving the air clear. 
It was then that Colum-cille made his last address to the poets of 
Ireland, their faces unseen by him. He told them that they were not 
to write down the praises that they had made, and that they were not 
to make them known to men. 

"But," said Bauheen to him afterwards, "it is known that the Chief 
Poet of Ireland, Dalian Forgail, is making a eulogy of you. You have 
done nothing to withhold him from doing this." 

"Service for service— it is that that keeps a folk together, cousin 
Bauheen," said Colum-cille cheerfully. "It is right that the Chief Poet 
of Ireland should make a eulogy of me on account of the benefit I 
have done his order." _ _ , 

"But then," said Bauheen, "everybody will be reciting Dalian s poem 
and Alba and Ireland will be filled with your praise. Howwill you be 
able to keep your humility with such urgings to vainglory?" 

Colum-cille smiled on his cousin. "Dalian is a very skilled poet, he 
said, "and I have asked him to use all his art in making this com- 
memorative poem. And I promise you, Bauheen, that no more plentifu 
than hornless piebald cows are the men in Ireland and Alba that will 
be able to comprehend much less remember the poem that Dalian uses 
all his skill in the making of." 

And so it came to be. Dalian's poem was praised by every poet in 
Ireland because of the strangeness of its rhythm and the depth and 
density of its references. "Amra," which means "strange," is the title 
that that poem of Dalian's is known by. We have been told that a 
scholar in Armagh got the first part of the poem by heart, and he was 
so bent on knowing the second part that he made a pilgrimage to the 
tomb of Colum-cille, and prayed and fasted there to the end that his 
mind might be so illuminated that he would be able to memorize the 
second part. In the morning he was able to repeat the second part and 
he jumped about with joy. But when he tried to repeat the first part 
he found that he could not bring the lines of it together. Fast and pray 
as he might, he was never able to get into his mind any but the first or 
second part: never the whole of the "Amra" did that man know. If the 
scholar had been a drunken fellow, we have no doubt but by the grace 

132 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

of Colum-cille, his patron, he would have been able to get by heart 
the whole of Dalian Forgail's eulogy. 

Brian Boru 

Near the mouth of the Shannon is the site of a stronghold famous 
in Irish history and poetry, Kincora. No remains of it are left. At the 
end of the tenth century, it was the stronghold of a king who, 
basing his power on Ireland's great waterway, the Shannon, strove 
bravely and wisely to establish a state that would be strong enough in 
the face of actual and imminent invasions to permit the country to 
develop her own civilization. The king was Brian, who was named 
"Boru" after the adjacent village where he was born. 

The eighth, ninth, and tenth centuries form a period in which North- 
ern and Western Europe were harried and partially conquered by 
Scandinavian invaders, Danes and Norse, a people still Pagan and 
fiercely anti-Christian. They founded kingdoms in England, Scotland, 
France. In Ireland they encountered a more established order than in 
any country they had yet entered, and they were not able to make, as 
they made in King Alfred's England, any large conquest. The high- 
king of Ireland, symbol of an historical unity, was able to keep a pres- 
tige that gave the country a morale. But the raids and invasions that 
kept up for generations made for greater devastation. The wealth of 
the country was plundered; churches and schools were destroyed; 
books, as representing a form of life the invaders were especially 
inimical to, they destroyed wherever found, generally sinking them in 
lakes: the round towers were built in this period to provide places 
where the treasures of the monastery and the books of its schools could 
be secured — places that could not be entered or burnt by plunderers. 
The invasions of the Scandinavians are marked by flights of scholars 
from Ireland. 

Towards the end of the ninth century the Norse and Danes were 
beginning to settle down along the coasts, but their presence meant 
constant warfare and disruption in the country. At the time when 
young Brian came on the scene, the Scandinavians occupied a camp in 
the area now covered by the city of Limerick. They were formidable 
neighbors to the small Irish states. "Their pine woods," says an his- 
torian, "supplied them with timber for stout vessels, and from the 

By the editor. 

Heroes of Old 133 

mines of Upsala they had iron and copper for the chains and anchors 
of their ships, for their heavy swords, their spear and arrow points and 
headpieces and shields, and all the armor which was later the wonder 
and admiration of the Irish." 

The Scandinavians in the place that is now Limerick were just across 
the river from a state that was about half the size of the present county 
Clare. The people of that state were named "Dal Gas," a name which 
has been modernized "Dalcassian." The young king of this state, 
Mahon, made a peace with the Scandinavians. But his younger brother, 
Brian, refused to be bound by the peace. "However small the injury he 
might do to the foreigners, he preferred it to peace," says the historian 
of his deeds. He went into the forests and waste places with a small 
band of followers and kept up a warfare. And so, like many other 
kings who stand out as champions of their people, Brian's early train- 
ing was in rugged places and with followers, looked upon as outlaws, 
who shared his hardships. 

When there were few left of his band he came back to his brother's 
house, and the makers of his saga have made a dramatic scene out of 
the meeting of the younger and elder brother. The saga-maker left it 
in prose which a modern poet, Alice Milligan, has changed into verse: 

Brian of Banba, all alone, up from the desert places, 
Came to stand where the festal throne of the lord of Thomond's race is, 
Came after tarrying long away till his cheeks were hunger-hollow, 
His voice grown hoarse in a hundred fights where he called on his men 

to follow. 
He had pillowed his head on the hard tree-roots, and slept in the sun 

Till the gold that had shone in his curls was gone, and the snow of his 

brow was faded; 
And where he came he was meanliest clad, 'midst the nobles of the 

Yet proudly he entered among them all, for this was his brother's 

And he was a Prince DalcassianI 

Mahon, King of the Dal-Cas, throned in his palace proudly, 
Drank the mead from a costly glass, whilst his poet harping loudly, 
Traced in song his lineage long to the times of ancient story, 
And praised the prowess of Cennedi's sons, and counted their deeds 
of glory. 

134 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

And chanted the fame of the chieftains all, the banquet-board sur- 
rounding — 

But why does he turn to this stranger tall? for whom is his harp now 

"The King," he says, "is a champion bold, and bold is each champion 

But Brian, the youngest, is bravest and strongest, and wiser than any 

The King rose up on his royal throne, and sorrowful was his gazing, 
And greatly the envy grew in his heart at the sound of such high 

For Mahon had dwelt in a palace fair, at peace with the land's invader, 
While Brian lurked in the wild-cat's lair, and slept where the she-wolf 

laid her. 
Mahon was clad in a robe of silk, a gift of a Dane chief's sending; 
The only cloak that Brian had was torn by the brambles' rending. 
Mahon had called for the mead and wine from the hands of those who 

But the thin cold wine that the swan-flocks sip was the only wine that 

Brian's lip 
For a year and more had tasted. 

"Brian, my brother," said the King, in a tone of scornful wonder, 
"Why dost thou come in beggar-guise our palace portals under? 
Where hast thou wandered yester-year? On what venture of love hast 

thou tarried? 
Tell us the count of thy prey of deer, and what cattle-herds thou hast 

Where is the mantle of silken fold, and the jeweled brooch that bound 


In what wager lost was the band of gold that once thy locks sur- 

Where hast thou left the courtly train that befitteth thy princely 

The hundred high-born youths I gave, the chosen sons of the chieftains 
Of the warriors Dalcassian?" 

"I have hunted no deer since yester-year, I have harried no neighbor's 

Heroes of Old 135 

1 have wooed no love, I have joined no game, save the kingly game of 

The Danes were my prey by night and day, in their forts of hill and 

And I come from the desert-lands alone, since none are alive to follow. 
Some were slain on the plundered plain, and some in the midnight 

Some were lost in the midnight floods, and some by the fever parching; 
Some have perished by wounds of spears, and some by the shafts of 

And some by hunger and some by thirst, and all are dead; but they 

slaughtered first 
Their tenfold more of their foemen." 

The King leaped down from his cushioned throne and grasped the 

hand of his brother: 
"Brian, though youngest, thou'art bravest and strongest, and nobler 

than any other; 
So choose at thy will of my flocks on the hill, and take of my treasures 

Were it even the ring on my royal hand, or this broidered cloak I am 

rolled in." 
Brian smiled: "You will need them all as award of bardic measure; 
I want no cattle from out your herds, no share of your shining treasure; 
But grant me now" — and he turned to look on the listening warriors' 

faces — 
"A hundred more of the Clan Dal Cas, to follow me over plain and 

To die, as fitteth the brave Dal Cas, at war with the Outland races." 

After this encounter Mahon joined with Brian in the war against 
the foreigners, and, becoming ambitious through the success the Dal 
Cas achieved, laid claim to the important kingship of Cashel. The 
Danes were driven out of the southwest; Mahon was murdered by 
Irish rivals, and Brian, around the age of forty, made himself King of 
Cashel and dominated the whole south of Ireland. The contemporary 
high-king was Maelseachlainn whose name is often written Malachi. 
He had defeated the foreigners at Tara; he had taken their stronghold 
of Dublin and brought away two famous trophies, the sword of 
Carlus and the torque of Tomar. He and Brian divided Ireland be- 
tween them, Malachi taking the northern half and Brian the southern 

136 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

The kingdom of Leinster, included in the southern half, made an 
alliance with the Norse of Dublin, and declared war. Brian, with the 
support of Malachi, defeated the Leinstermen and the Norse and took 
Dublin. And now the time had come for Brian to initiate a policy 
unique in the history of Ireland. The example of Charlemagne was 
before him; through the school in Clonmacnoise which had contact 
with the school Charlemagne set up in Paris, the idea of an imperial 
power that could check the invasions of the Scandinavians and advance 
a Christian civilization was familiar to learned men in Ireland. Brian 
embodied the idea. He made an alliance with the defeated Norse. 
Gathering all his forces he marched on Tara and demanded that 
Malachi acknowledge him as high-king. Malachi went into Brian's 
camp and accepted gifts from him — a token of submission. Brian, now 
king of Ireland, permitted Malachi to style himself king of Tara. 

But it was evident that he intended to create a kingship of a new 
order. In the northern metropolis, Armagh, his secretary wrote his 
title in words that can still be read — "Imperator Scotorum" — "Em- 
peror of the Gaels." He claimed possession of all the southern for- 
tresses; he attempted to weaken the northern dynasts by recognizing 
the petty kingdoms from which they drew tribute. Knowing that the 
Norse and Danes could not be driven out, he inaugurated a policy of 
drawing them into the political and social life of the country. 

But in striving to establish a dominant state in Ireland, Brian had 
a more difficult task than an able and ambitious dynast in any other 
part of western Europe would have had. The whole constitution of 
Irish society was opposed to centralized authority: Irish society was at 
once vital and strongly traditional. It would have taken two or three 
generations of resolute and enlightened leadership to make that society 
favorable to an order inaugurated by a king from an obscure stock in 
an obscure part of Ireland. 

Twelve years after he had declared himself "Imperator Scotorum," 
Brian had to face an invasion of Ireland. He was in his seventieth year. 
The Norse and the Irish accounts of the battle that ensued show a 
woman working to bring about the invasion. She was Gormlai, the 
sister of the King of Leinster, the mother of Sigtrygg, the Norse king 
of Dublin: she is called Kormlada in the Njal Saga. Gormlai brought 
about a new alliance between the Norse and Leinstermen. She pre- 
vailed upon her son to gather forces that could be great enough to 
overthrow Brian's. And when Sigtrygg told her he had secured the 
help of Earl Sigurd with the promise of the kingdom of Ireland and 
herself for wife, "she was well pleased, but said they must gather 
greater forces still." Earl Brodir was summoned to join Earl Sigurd. 

Heroes of Old 137 

The Norse of Dublin with the Leinstermen and the Vikings from 
overseas made a force of about twenty thousand men — a great force for 
those days. Brian had the men of Munster and Connacht; he had the 
support of Malachi with the men of Meath; he had Scottish allies. The 
fighting took place in what is now covered by the northern streets of 
Dublin: the Viking ships lay off Clontarf, and the retreat to them was 
across a weir. In Irish history the battle is "The Battle of Clontarf"; in 
the Norse saga it is "The Battle of Dublin." 

Earl Brodir's mail-clad men were greatly dreaded by the Irish who 
still fought in their tunics. They were the right wing of the Norse 
army with Earl Sigurd and the Orkney and Shetland men. Murrach, 
Brian's son, led the wing opposed to this powerful force: he had the 
home-foices, the men of the Shannon side, and was supported by the 
Scottish allies. The Norse center was made up of the men of Leinster 
and other Irish forces, and it was opposed by the Munster forces. The 
Norse left was made up of the men of Dublin, and was opposed by 
the Connacht forces. 

Brian's center, broken by the men of Leinster, was saved by the 
arrival of Malachi with the men of Meath. The battle went on. Mur- 
rach's onslaught on the Norse right wing was so vigorous that the mail- 
clad fighters were dispersed. Brodir was forced into a near-by wood. 
Tordelbach, Brian's grandson, who is named Kerthialfad in the Njal 
Saga, strove with Earl Sigurd. 

Sigurd, had he won this battle and set himself up as King of Ireland, 
could have claimed kinship with an Irish dynastic family, for his 
mother was Eithne, daughter of the king of Ossory. It was she who 
wove the magic banner that he carried. The Earl's Saga tells how he 
went to his mother for advice about the battle he was going into, tell- 
ing her that there would be no less odds against him than seven to one. 
She answered, "I had reared thee up long in my wool-bag had I known 
that thou wouldst like to live forever. . . . Better it is to die with honor 
than to live with shame. Take thou here hold of this banner which I 
have made for thee with all my cunning, and I ween it will bring 
victory to those before whom it is borne, but speedy death to him who 
bears it." Now Brian's grandson, a youth of fifteen, came against him, 
the Njal Saga tells, "so fast that he laid low all who were in the front 
rank, and he broke up the array of Earl Sigurd right up to his banner, 
and slew the banner-bearer. 

"Then he got another man to bear the banner, and there was a hard 
fight. Kerthialfad smote the man his death-blow at once, and so on, 
one after another, all who stood near him. 

"Then Earl Sigurd called on Thorstein, the son of Hall of the Side, 

138 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

to bear the banner, and Thorstein was just about to lift the banner, 
but Asmund the White said, 'Don't bear the banner! For all who bear 
it get their death!' 'Hafrn the Red,' called the Earl, 'bear the bannerl' 
'Bear thine own devil thyself,' answered Hafrn. Then the Earl said, 
' 'Tis fit that the beggar should bear his own bag,' and with that he 
took the banner from the staff and put it under his cloak." 

Seeing that the battle was going against him, Sigurd formed the 
design of capturing or killing Brian. He drew Brodir from the near-by 
wood to join with him. Breaking through the lines they slew the king's 
guards. His son and grandson hurried to where Brian was in a shelter. 
Sigurd with his banner was killed. But Brodir, breaking into the 
"shieldburg," slew the king. Then, surrounded by foemen, Brodir was 
slain by an unknown hand. 

The battle was over; the King of Ireland had won over the Norse and 
their Irish allies; the Vikings had retreated to their ships. But Brian 
was dead. His son, Murrach, engaging in single combat with a Viking, 
lost his life, and Tordelbach, his grandson, was slain in the water be- 
side the Viking ships. None were left of those who might have carried 
on Brian's policy. 

The song which is given in the Njal Saga, the song which Darraud 
had heard the weird women sing, was prophetic for Ireland: 

Now new-coming nations 
That island shall rule, 
Who on outlying headlands 
Abode ere the fight; 
I say that king mighty 
To death now is done, 
And low before spear-point 
That Earl bows his head. 

Soon over all Ersemen 
Sharp sorrow shall fall. 
That woe to those warriors 
Shall wane nevermore: 
Our woof now is woven, 
Now battlefield's waste, 
O'er land and o'er water 
War tidings shall leap.* 

' Translated by Sir George Dasent, in The Saga oj Burnt Njal. 

Heroes of Old 139 

Their defeat seemed portentous to the Scandinavians whose swords 
and axes had hewed out victories from Iceland to Normandy and from 
Caithness to Constantinople. Earl Sigurd had such foreboding that for 
long he was steadfast against obeying King Sigtrygg's summons. And 
after Brodir had resolved to go, a shower of boiling blood fell upon 
him and his men; their axes and spears fought of themselves; ravens 
flew at the men and pressed them so hard that they had to keep them 
off with sword and shield. In Iceland, on the day of the battle, blood 
came on the priest's stole. In the Orkneys a chieftain saw the appari- 
tion of Earl Sigurd and rode forward to meet it — "men saw that they 
met and rode under a brae, but they were never seen again." In the 
Southern Islands, Earl Gilli dreamt that a man came to him from 
Ireland and sang runes about the battle. In Caithness a man saw folk 
riding twelve together to a bower; he looked through the window slit 
and saw women weaving: men's heads were the weights of the looms, 
men's entrails were the warp and woof, a sword was the shuttle, the 
reeds were arrows. And as they wove, the women chanted a lament for 
"the sword-bearing rovers" which the man who watched learned by 

But this was not the finish of a career that had had a creative idea. 
One side of the pattern given by Charlemagne, the political side, had 
been torn up; the other side, the cultural side, remained and had a 
living influence for centuries. Centers of learning had been destroyed, 
libraries had been pillaged, learned men had fled the country. In the 
years of peace in his stronghold by the Shannon, Brian planned a 
revival of learning. Historians who were close to him tell us he "sent 
professors and masters to teach wisdom and knowledge and to buy 
books beyond the seas." A new learned order was instituted by him. 
Up to the tenth century learning had been fostered in the monasteries. 
A new learned order, a lay order, now took over, an order that is asso- 
ciated in its beginnings with the Shannon settlements. This was the 
Bardic Order that influenced Ireland directly for five centuries and 
left a tradition that had longer-lasting influences.* 

• "They correspond in a way to the university man, but their fixed place in 
society was higher than any that his attainments alone have ever been able to secure 
for the university man in England. They were, indeed, until the fall of the old 
Irish order and intellectual aristocracy, with all the privileges and, no doubt, many 
of the prejudices of a caste." — Robin Flower: The Irish tradition. Oxford University 
Press, New York, lac 

HO A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

The Unbroken Line of O'Briens 

The O'Briens divided into several branches, the chief being the 
O'Briens, of Ara, north of County Tipperary; of Connagh, in the east 
of County Limerick; of Pobelbrien, where their main stronghold was 
at Carrigconnell, on the River Shannon; of Aherlow, in County Tip- 
perary, and of Comaragh, in County Waterford, where they had ex- 
tensive possessions in the valley between Dungarvan and the Suir. 

The place of inauguration of the O'Briens, as Kings and Princes of 
Thomond, was at Tullagh, County Clare, and their motto or war-cry 
was "Lamb Laidir An Uachdar," or "The Strong Hand Uppermost." 
On their armorial ensigns were three lions, which were on the stand- 
ards of Brian Boru and borne by his men at the Battle of Clontarf. 

In modern times the O'Briens were Earls of Inchiquin, Marquises of 
Thomond and Barons of Burren, in County Clare. Many of them were 
distinguished commanders in the Irish brigades in the service of France 
under the titles of Earls of Clare and Counts of Thomond. Today, the 
present Baron of Inchiquin, Sir Donough Edward Foster O'Brien, 
has his seat at Dromoland Castle, Newmarket-on-Fergus, County Clare, 
thus maintaining an unbroken line of male descent from Brian Boru. 

From "If Your Name Is O'Brien," by V. J. Ryan, in The Irish Digest, March, 
1950, p. 94. Dublin. 

Part III 


Letter from 

Hugh O'Neill, Earl of Tyrone, 

to Sir John McCoughleyn 

Our greetings to you, McCoughleyn. We have received your letter, 
and what we make out from it is that you offer nothing but sweet 
words and procrastination. For our part in the matter, whatever 
man would not be on our side and would not spend his efforts for 
the right, we take it that that man is a man against us. For this rea- 
son, whatever you yourself are doing well, hurt us as much as you 
are able, and we shall hurt you to the best of our ability, with God's 


At Knocduffmaine, 6th Feb. 1600. 

From A Celtic Miscellany: Translations from the Celtic Literatures, by Kenneth 
Hurhtone Jackson. Harvard University l'rcss. Cambridge. 1951. 



To leave a blank between the eleventh and the fifteenth century 
seems to imply that nothing that affected the people of Ireland hap- 
pened in that long interval. On the contrary, events that had the great- 
est import for them happened in these centuries. But, as far as the 
knowledge of this editor goes, these great events left no deposit that 
has been drawn upon in the formation of popular tradition. They be- 
long exclusively to history. 

The events are the Norman invasion; the acceptance by the Irish 
princes of the Plantagenet assumption of the Lordship of Ireland; 
the abolition of the High-Kingship; the Irish resurgence and the stop- 
page of the Norman spread in the west and south; the attempt to set 
up Edward Bruce as King of Ireland and the consequent war that all 
but destroyed the early Norman and English settlements in Ireland; 
the adoption by certain of the great Norman families of Irish law with 
the Gaelicization of their names; the reduction of English power in 
Ireland to Dublin and a strip of country alongside — the Pale. 

From then until the close of the sixteenth century when medieval 
Ireland that contained in itself so much of an earlier Ireland was de- 
stroyed, the country outside the Pale was governed by great magnates 
of Norman and Gaelic names. If Ireland had been isolated from the 
expanding state on the east, there would have emerged from this 
feudalism some paramount lord who would have made himself king. 
As the fifteenth century progresses we note that the scene is set for such 
a play. But time is running out. The Tudor monarch in England is 
forming the Renaissance great state. In Scotland the great magnates 
are losing to the monarch. And this rising monarchy could strengthen 
itself against English encroachment by an alliance with a group of 
Irish magnates, and, by giving support to one of them, make Ireland a 
kingdom. This seems to be the purport of the play that is being offered 
towards the end of the fifteenth century. But the Scots lose Flodden 
Field, and thereafter Tudor power overshadows Scotland and Ireland. 

Of an age stirring with such drama, the four personages described by 
different historians are representative. Here is the Norman-Irish Fitz- 
gerald who had the kingship in his grasp but fell back on the part of 
the last of the barons. Here is the Gaelic O'Neill, haughty, humorous, 
politic, a good ruler of his own people, but too private-minded for 
the great role that soon it would be too late to enact. And later, on a 
narrowed stage but still representative, Grania O'Malley who shows us 
what stuff there was in the ruling stock at the time, and Brian 
O'Rourke who, if he did nothing else, showed how indomitable these 
old chieftains were. — P.C. 


Garret More Fitzgerald, Earl of Kildare 

^ Henry VII had already realized in a meeting with Garret More that, 
"since all Ireland cannot rule this man, this man must rule all Ire- 
land," and so he restored Kildare as deputy, giving him further in 
marriage as his second wife his own cousin, Elizabeth St. John, and 
pardoning the whole body of his supporters. Kildare ruled Ireland for 
the rest of his life, and the bridling of the Dublin parliament even 
made him still more master, for as long as the King approved, he could 
manage it and legislate in it as he wished. Save for that, all his former 
powers were restored and so was Anglo-Irish control in Dublin. All 
the highest offices in Church and State (saving those of bishops and of 
chancellor, treasurer, and the chief judges) were in the appointment of 
Kildare; he spent whatever revenues of state there were, commanded 
its forces, named the constables of the royal castles, and used the royal 
artillery for his own purposes. In the north he protected the interests 
of his nephews, sons of Conn More O'Neill, though the second of these, 
the famous Conn Bachach, did not become O'Neill till 1519. A fine 
family grew up around him, and through his five daughters he allied 
himself with the great houses of Gael and Gall. One married Ulick 
Burke of Clanrickard; another Donal MacCarthy Reagh; another Mul- 
rony O'Carroll; another the Lord of Slane; a fifth, Margaret, Sir Piers 
Butler who, on the death of his father, James, in 1478, became head 
of the Polestown Butlers and deputy for the absent Earl of Ormond. 

In these years in which he was left in charge of Ireland, Garret More, 
both as deputy and earl, marched over more of Ireland than any vice- 
roy had done for generations, bringing local chiefs into vassalage, 
securing the succession of the O'Neill or the O'Kelly he favored, and 
blowing down with royal artillery the castles of private opponents. 
Ireland had found in him an "uncrowned king," and though she was 
divided into local combinations, at least they revolved round the great 
names of Geraldine, Butler, Burke, and O'Brien. The culmination of 
these armed confederacies was seen in the year 1504. In the west Garret 
More's great opponent was Ulick Burke, his own son-in-law, who was 
usurping the royal town of Galway and had ill-treated his wife, Kil- 
dare's daughter. It came to a battle in which the summons of Kildare 
was answered by O'Donnell, O'Neill, O'Kelly, the Mayo Burke and the 

From A History of Ireland, by Edmund Curtis, pp. 154-158. Mcthuen & Co., Ltd 
London. 1936. 


Great Chiefs and Uncrowned Kings 145 

English of the Pale, and that of Clanrickard by O'Brien and the chiefs 
of Ormond and Connacht. In all, Kildare mustered an army of English 
and Irish as would have conquered the Pale in twenty-four hours, had 
he but dared to claim the Crown of Ireland. On August 19, 1504, some 
ten thousand men faced one another on the low eminence of Cnoc 
Taugh near Galway, armies medievally equipped with bows and bills, 
spears and swords, light horsemen and heavy axe-men, and so des- 
perate was the fighting that out of Clanrickard's nine battalions of 
gallowglasses, eighteen hundred men, only the remnant of one bat- 
talion, escaped alive. 

It was a famous victory, and Kildare entered Galway in glory, but 
though it was reported to the King as a great triumph for the English 
cause in Ireland, it was but the final explosion of a long feud and the 
crushing of a great rival. The ability of Garret More cannot be 
doubted, nor can his popularity with both the races of Ireland, but 
though he was a secret Yorkist and wished to be a king-maker, he was 
not one of those Bruces or Vasas who have dared to set themselves at 
the head of a new and independent nation. 

Kildare, indeed, realized that a new age had come with the failure 
of the Yorkist hope and the coming of the Tudors, nor could he ignore 
the news that in 1499 King James of Scotland brought the lordship of 
die Isles to an end after two centuries and a half of independence by 
hanging its lord, John MacDonnell, and Uiree of his sons. The moral 
was that both in England and Scotland the day of a new and powerful 
monarchy had come. 

In 1505 Hugh Oge O'Donnell succeeded his father as overlord of 
Tyrconnell, Sligo, Fermanagh, and Leitrim. His race had been allied 
with Kildare for some forty years against Clanrickard and other 
enemies, and Kildare and he became the chief leaders of a movement 
to unite Scotland and Ireland against England with the possible hope 
of a Yorkist restoration. . . . O'Donnell was that new type of Irish chief 
who could travel and speak other languages, he visited Rome in 1510, 
and, later, on his return was knighted by the King in London, but 
he did not hesitate to enter into communication with James IV, King 
of Scots, Henry's enemy, who thought of attacking England through 
Ireland. But before this design ripened the Great Earl himself was 

It was in a petty skirmish with the O'Mores of Leix that Garret 
More's long life ended. He was trying one of the King's new guns upon 
them, and in return one of them shot him with one of their new 
muskets. On September 3, 1513, the Earl was dead, and six days later 
the King of Scots was slain with all his chivalry at Flodden Field, while 

J46 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

O'Donnell could only write from Donegal to Henry to clear himself 
from suspicion. 

Garret More came nearer to being accepted King of Ireland dian 
any man since the Conquest, and his popularity lasted for forty years 
of his rule. He is described as "a mighty man of stature, full of honor 
and courage, open and plain, hardly able to rule himself when he was 
moved to anger, easily displeased and soon appeased, of the English 
well beloved, a good justiciar, a suppressor of rebels and a warrior 
incomparable." Under him, though the union of the two races was not 
operated, there was a growing sense of new nationality, and Gaelic 
chiefs and old English lords allied and intermarried openly. The in- 
fluence of the Renaissance was seen in Ireland in the founding of 
Kilkenny School by Piers Butler, in a splendid college in Maynooth, 
built by the Great Earl, and the fine library, both of manuscripts and 
books, that the Earl and his son had in their Maynooth castle. It was 
a flowering time also for Gaelic culture which both races honored, and 
if Ireland was dominated by a numerous and powerful aristocracy 
without a king, at least civilization under them had a noble and 
generous character. 

The power of the Geraldine had extended itself over the Pale, and 
over a large part of Leinster and is expressed in the Red Book of Kil- 
dare, a great family rental drawn up for Garret More. This power 
rested on affection and loyalty as well as on force, and even after the 
fall of the Geraldines in 1534 a Dublin official could write to Thomas 
Cromwell: "This English Pale, except in towns and a few of the 
possessioners, be so affectionate to the Geraldine for kindred, marriage, 
fostering, and adherence, that they covet more to see a Geraldine to 
reign and triumph than to see God come among them." 

Shane O'Neil 

Justice has never been done to Shane O'Neil. That the English 
should have maligned him goes without saying, for he was one of the 
most formidable enemies they ever had in Ireland. But that his own 
countrymen should not have defended him is stranger. The fact is 
we have, in the main, been disposed to accept the English estimate of 
Shane. We have been rather inclined to regard him as a desperate 
character, a great fighter, but a man possessing no real intellectual 

By Barry O'Brien, in The Gael, May, 1904. pp. 175-176. New York. 

Great Chiefs and Uncrowned Kincs 147 

qualities. Mr. Froude, summing up the English opinion, describes 
Shane as "an adulterous, murdering scoundrel" — strange words, it will 
be admitted, from the panegyrist of Henry VIII. 

Shane's matrimonial arrangements were unquestionably irregular. 
He ran away with another man's wife, which was certainly unjusti- 
fiable, but he ran away with the husband at the same time, which was 
at least original. But more of this anon. That he was a "murderer," 
Mr. Froude gives no proof whatever. Of course he refers to the death 
of Matthew O'Ncil, Shane's illegitimate brother. But there is no evi- 
dence to show that Matthew was "murdered." He was killed in a 
quarrel between his people and Shane's people; but however the mat- 
ter was brought about there is no evidence to show that Shane was 
present, or that he had anything to do with the business. 

Shane O'Neil was something more than a mere fighter. He was a 
man of real intellectual force. He proved himself the equal of Eliza- 
beth's generals on the field, and of her statesmen in negotiation. Nor is 
there evidence wanting to show that the great Queen herself appreci- 
ated his vigor and finesse. At all events, she recognized that he was a 
power in his own province, and she put forth all her strength — or 
main — to crush him. He hurled defiance at England at a time when 
England was hurling defiance at Europe. 

Shane came of a good stock — O'Neils upon one side, Geraldines on 
the other; for his father, Con Bacagh, had married Alice, daughter of 
the Earl of Kildare. 

From the beginning his path was strewn with trouble. In 1541-2, 
Con Bacagh had, with other Irish chiefs, made submission to Henry 
VIII, renouncing his title of "The O'Neil" and receiving the "Earldom 
of Tyrone" instead, with Matthew next in line. Shane, who was 
younger than Matthew, but the eldest of the legitimate children, pro- 
tested against the injustice which had thus been done to him, and 
finally persuaded his father to right the wrong. Matthew was disin- 
herited and Shane confirmed in his position. Matthew appealed to the 
English. The English espoused his cause. Con was invited to Dublin 
castle to discuss the subject. But once there, he was held fast. Treacher- 
ously entrapped, he was made a prisoner. Shane protested, and de- 
manded his father's release. The government refused, and Shane 
declared war. 

In 1551, Sir James Croft, the Lord Deputy, sent an army into Ulster 
to crush him. The English began their operations by attacking Shane's 
allies — the MacDonnells of Antrim in Rathlin Island. The MacDon- 
nels were victorious, and Croft's army was annihilated. In 1522 another 
army was sent to the north; it was routed by Shane's allies near Bel- 

148 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

fast. Matthew O'Neil advanced to the help of the English; Shane 
suddenly fell upon him, and scattered his forces to the winds. Yet a 
third attempt was made; it also ended in failure. Negotiations were 
then opened with Shane, but nothing came of them. "We found noth- 
ing in Shane," said the English ambassadors, "but pride and stubborn- 
ness." At length Croft retired from the combat, released Con Bacagh, 
and left Shane master of the situation. 

For about six years there was peace between Shane and the English. 
Con Bacagh had been again invited to Dublin Castle where he re- 
mained until his death in 1559. In the same year Matthew O'Neil had 
been killed in an encounter between Shane's people and his own- 
killed in battle. Shane said. 

Shane, now repudiating the English title of "Earl of Tyrone," 
adopted the old Irish title of "The O'Neil," and was elected Chief 
of his Clan. The English Government took alarm. Shane had again 
flouted them. In defiance of English law, according to which the eldest 
son of Matthew was now Baron of Dungannon, he had himself accord- 
ing to Irish law been elected Chief of the Clan. It was clear that he 
meant to hold his own, and to withstand the English to the last. In 
these circumstances, the Lord Justice. Sir Henry Sidney, resolved to 
bring the recalcitrant Ulster Chief to book. He marched with an army 
to Dundalk, and "summoned" Shane to appear before him. Shane, 
with that touch of humor which is so delightful in his dispatches, 
calmly ignored the "summons," but invited Sidney to his house, where 
there was to be an interesting function in a few days, viz., a christen- 
ing. In fact. Shane said he would be delighted if the Lord Justice 
would stand sponsor for the young O'Neil. Sidney was, perhaps, a 
humorist, and might have been tickled by the situation, or with 
Croft's example before him, he might have thought it wiser, on the 
whole, to test Shane in conciliatory spirit. In any event, he accepted 
the invitation, and visited Shane's castle. 

Sidney seems to have been well pleased with his visit, and was ap- 
parently captivated by this "adulterous murdering scoundrel." He and 
Shane discussed the whole situation amicably. Shane said, in effect, 
that Matthew O'Neil pere was a bastard. That being so, his eldest son 
could not inherit. Shane, on the other hand, was admittedly the legiti- 
mate son. and had been elected, according to Irish law, Chief of the 
Clan. This was Shane's case. Doubtless, Sidney reminded Shane, as 
Elizabeth herself reminded him subsequently, that Con Bacagh had 
acknowledged Matthew; and Shane, in all probability, said to Sidney, 
as he subsequently said to Elizabeth, with characteristic humor, that 
his father "was too good a gentleman to deny any child that was sworn 

Great Chiefs and Uncrowned Kings 149 

to him." In the end Sidney seems to have been quite won over by 
Shane, and promised to present his case in a favorable light to the 
Queen. Sidney was a peaceful man; he also appreciated Shane's abili- 

Everyone is familiar with Henry VII's answer to those who told 
him that all Ireland could not govern the Earl of Kildare. "Then," 
said the King, "let the Earl of Kildare govern all Ireland." 

Sidney probably at that time thought that the best solution of the 
Ulster difficulty would be to let Shane rule Ulster, provided he could 
be got to acknowledge Elizabeth as his sovereign — a concession 5hanc 
was ready enough to make, for it in reality meant little to him. As long 
as he could rule Ulster he did not care what Elizabeth called herself, 
and to rule Ulster he was resolved. 

By the end of 1559 Sidney was, however, recalled, and the Earl o£ 
Sussex became Lord Deputy. Sussex despised the methods of Sidney. 
He had methods of his own — the arm of the soldier, the dagger or the 
poisoned cup of the assassin. He tried all and he failed in all. At the 
outset, however, Elizabeth, whether through policy, through fear, or 
merely as a blind, advised peace. Shane was in possession, she said; he 
was legitimate; let him be. Then an interesting correspondence passed. 

It is strange that Shane, unaccustomed to courts (as he himself tells 
us he was) yet knew how to write like a courtier. Of course, he had 
never seen Elizabeth, and yet he played on her foibles as if he knew 
every turn of her mind. He flattered, he cajoled, was submissive, firm, 
always most respectful, and deferential; but ever driving his points 
most irresistibly home. It was an age of dishonest diplomacy. Perhaps 
every age is an age of dishonest diplomacy. Shane was, at all events, a 
master of the craft. When I say that he was a match for Cecil and 
Bacon with their own weapons, I shall, perhaps, have said all that is 
necessary to give an accurate idea of the diplomatic skill of Shane 

Elizabeth summoned him to London to justify the position he had 
taken up. He replied to this "summons," and the letter is a good speci- 
men of his epistolary style. I shall take a single paragraph. He begins 
with deference, and, it may be, with veiled sarcasm, humoring the 
while the vanity of her Majesty. He says: "And now that I am going 
over to see you, I hope you will consider that I am but rude and 
uncivil and dp not know my duty to your Highness, nor yet your 
Majesty's law, but am brought up in wildness far from all civility." 
He then proceeds more boldly, revealing the true character of "Shane 
the Proud." "Yet have I a good will in the commonwealth of my 
country; and please your Majesty to send over two commissioners that 

150 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

you can trust and will take no bribes or otherwise be imposed upon 
to observe what I have done to improve the country, and to hear 
what my accusers have to say." Having boldly thrown down this chal- 
lenge, he adds with defiance: "Then let them go into the Pale and 
hear what the people say of your soldiers, with their horses, and their 
dogs, and their concubines. Within this year and a half three hundred 
farmers are come from the English Pale, to live in my country where 
they can be safe." 

This single paragraph marks the character and the abilities of Shane. 
It is a dispatch written with the spirit of a ruler of men. Courteous, 
skillful, dignified, bold; challenging inquiry, exposing the English 
methods of bribery and falsehood; denouncing the government of the 

"Within this year and a half three hundred farmers are come from 
the English Pale, to live in my country, where they can be safe." This 
is not the language of a vassal. It is the language of one sovereign 
conveying rebuke to another in courtly and dignified phraseology. 

Nor did Shane write without warrant. Sidney had visited Shane's 
country, and reported that Tyrone was so "well inhabited as no Irish 
county in the realm was like it." Campion, a contemporary authority, 
wrote: "[O'Neil] ordered the north so properly that if any subject 
could prove the loss of money or goods within the precincts he would 
assuredly either force the robber to restitution, or at his own cost 
redeem the harm to the losers' contention." 

And Campion adds: "Sitting at meals, before he put one morsel in 
his mouth, he used to slice a portion above the daily alms, and send 
it to some begjar at his gate, saying it was meet to serve Christ first." 

Shane having challenged Elizabeth to send commissioners to his 
country, and having exposed her own methods of government in the 
Pale, states, as a condition precedent to his visit to England, that he 
will need an advance of 3,000 pounds "to pay my expenses in going 
over to you, and when I come back I will pay your deputy three 
thousand pounds Irish, such as you are pleased to have current here," 
and he, adopting the role of courtier once more, ends by adding: 
"Also I will ask your Majesty to marry me to some gentlewoman of 
noble birth meet for my vocation." 

While Elizabeth corresponded with Shane in a friendly spirit, she 
was really contemplating his destruction. Mr. Froude does not blink 
the fact. He says: "For Shane the meaning of his summons to England 
was merely to detain him there 'with gentle talk' till Sussex could 
return to his command and the English army be reinforced. Prepara- 
tions were made to send men and money in such large quantities that 

Great Chiefs and Uncrowned Kings 151 

rebellion could have no chance; and so careful was the secrecy which 
was observed to prevent Shane from taking alarm that a detachment 
of troops sent from Portsmouth sailed with sealed orders, and neither 
men nor officers knew that Ireland was their destination until they 
had rounded Land's End." 

It was doubtless hoped that while the fleet was on its way to Ire- 
land, Shane would be on his way to England, and that thus Tyrone, 
in the absence of its chief, would be at the mercy of Sussex's soldiers. 
But either Shane was, in some unaccountable manner, put upon his 
guard, or the natural shrewdness of the man kept him out of danger. 
At all events he did not move. He was expected daily in Dublin to 
Start on his journey to London, but he constantly gave some excuse. 
"At one time his dress was not ready, at another he had no money, and 
pressed to have his loan of three thousand sent to him. He was polite; 
he was courteous; he was friendly; but he stopped in Tyrone." 

Meanwhile Sussex had returned to his command, and he laid a deep 
scheme for the destruction of Shane. He resolved to raise up the rival 
princes of Ulster against the Chief of Tyrone, and he employed the 
familiar methods of bribery and corruption. O'Reilly' of Brefney was 
made an Earl. O'Donnell of Tyrconnell was promised an Earldom. 
Means were used to draw away the Scots from their alliance with 
O'Neil. Then a grand combined attack was to be made upon the arch 
enemy. O'Donnell and O'Reilly were to march on Tyrone from the 
west, the Scots were to fall upon the "rebel" from the north and east, 
while Sussex would advance from the south to give him the coup de 
grace. It was a well-laid scheme. But the gods smiled on Shane. Mars 
fought upon his side, and even Cupid flew to his assistance. 

O'Donnell was married to the sister of the Earl of Argyle, popu- 
larly called the "Countess of Argyle," a woman who has been described 
as "not unlearned in Latin," speaking French and Italian; and 
"counted sober, wise, and no less subtle." It was Sussex's calculation 
that with the O'Donnell, representing a powerful Irish clan, and the 
Countess of Argyle, representing the Scots, as his allies, the way for 
destruction of Shane would be made easy. But Sussex counted without 
his host. The Countess of Argyle loved Shane O'Neil; and for aught 
we know to the contrary, however we have no evidence on the point, 
may have revealed Sussex's plot to him. In any case, Shane was fore- 
armed. Suddenly he dashed into O'Donnell's country and ravaged it 
with fire and sword. Then he swooped down upon O'Donnell and 
carried him and the Countess off. Fifteen hundred Scots surrounded 
the lady, but not one of them raised a hand against Shane. It was a 
master stroke. With O'Donnell in his hands, the Clan O'Donnell was 

152 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

paralyzed. With the Countess in his hands, the Scots' alliance was 
made safer than ever. Sussex accepted defeat, and did not move a 
man out of the Pale to molest the invincible Chief of Tyrone. 

Grace O'Malley, Irish Sea Queen 

Her proper name in Irish was Grainne Ni Mhaille; Crania Uaile 
is the popular form; and Grace O'Malley is the polite English form, 
which, I daresay, the lady herself never heard. 

It is strange we find no reference to Grania in what may be called 
our National Annals. Neither in the Annals of Lough Ce, nor in the 
Annals of the Four Masters, nor in the Annals of Clonmacnoise, do 
we find the slightest reference to Grania, because I daresay the official 
chroniclers would not recognize any female chieftain as head of her 
tribe. It is to the State Papers we must go to get authentic information 
about Grania — that is to say, to the letters written to the Privy Council 
in Ireland or in England, by the statesmen of Queen Elizabeth who 
visited Connaught. Above all, we have one invaluable document, 
written in July, 1593, containing Grania's answers to eighteen ques- 
tions put to her by the Government about herself and her doings, the 
authenticity of which cannot be questioned, and which gives us the 
most important facts in her personal history. 

The O'Malleys had from immemorial ages been lords of the Owles, 
or Umhalls — that is, the country all around Clew Bay, now known 
as the baronies of Burrishoole and Murrisk. It is said they derived 
their descent not from Brian the great ancestor of the Connaught kings, 
but from his brother, Orbsen; and hence they are set down in the 
Book of Rights as tributary kings to the provincial kings of Connaught. 
In the middle of the thirteenth century they were driven out of a good 
portion of the northern Owle by the Burkes and Butlers, but still 
retained down to the time of Grania some twenty townlands, or eighty 
quarters in Burrishoole, and held more of it as tenants to the Earl of 
Ormond. Grania tells us that O'Malley's barony of Murrisk included 
all the ocean Islands from Clare to Inisboffin. 

As Bingham describes Grania in 1593 as the "nurse of all rebellions 
in Connaught for the last forty years," she must have been born about 
the year 1530, before Henry VIII had yet changed his religion. 

From a lecture delivered by Archbishop Healey in the Town Hall. Westport, 
Ireland, January 7, 1906. Printed in a pamphlet published by The Catholic Truth 
Sodcty. Dublin. 

Great Chiefs and Uncrowned Kings 153 

It is highly probable that Grania was fostered on Clare Island, which 
belonged to her family, and it was doubtless here she acquired that 
passionate love of the sea, as well as that skill and courage in seafaring 
which made her at once the idol of her clansmen and the greatest 
captain in the western seas. 

"Terra Marique Potens," was the motto of her family, and Shane 
O'Dugan tells us that there never was an O'Malley who was not a sailor, 
but not one of them all could excel Grania in sailing a galley or ruling 
a crew. This open-air life on the sea, if it did not add to her beauty, 
gave her great strength and vigor. Sydney, the Lord Deputy, who met 
her in Galway in 1576, describes her, when she must have been about 
middle age, as "famous for her stoutness of courage, and person, and 
for sundry exploits done by her by sea." Whatever literary education 
she got in her youth she probably received from the Carmelite Friars 
on Clare Island, but I suspect, although she was afterwards married to 
two of the greatest chiefs in the West, that Grania knew more about 
rigging and sailing a galley than she did of drawing-room accomplish- 

It is not unlikely that Grania was an heiress, and though she could 
never, according to the Brehon Law, become "the captain of her na- 
tion," especially after marriage, she still seems to have always retained 
the enthusiastic love and obedience of her clansmen, especially in the 
islands. She must, of course, get a husband, and so they chose a fitting 
help-mate for a warrior Queen in the person of Donall an Chogaidh 
O'Flaherty, of Bunowan, in the barony of Ballynahinch. He was in the 
direct line descendant of Hugh Mor and was the acknowledged heir 
to the headship of all the western O'Flahertys, and certainly after the 
death of Donall Crone ought to be the Chief Lord of all Connemara, 
although Teige na Buile contested his claims. 

This alliance, therefore, united in the closest bonds of friendship 
the two ruling families of Murrisk and Ballynahinch, with nothing 
but the narrow estuary of Leenane Bay, or rather the Killery, between 
them. Moreover, it made the united tribes chief rulers of the western 
seas, so that when Grania sailed away from her island home, with the 
sea-horse of O'Malley and the lions of O'Flaherty floating proudly fore 
and aft from the mast-heads of her galleys, the young sea-queen must 
have been a happy bride, and expected happy days in her new home 
at Bunowan Castle. 

By this her first marriage, Grania tells us she had two sons, Owen 
and Morogh. Her eldest son, Owen, she said, was always a good and 
loyal subject, in the time of Sir Nicholas Malby, and also under Sir 
Richard Bingham, until the Burkes of McWilliam's country and the 

154 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

Joyces began to rebel. Then Owen, for the better security of himself, 
his flocks and his herds, did, by direction of Sir R. Bingham, withdraw 
into a strong island. At the same time a strong force was sent under 
the lead of Capt. John Bingham (brother of Sir Richard) to pursue 
the rebels— the Joyces and others. But missing them, they came to the 
mainland— right against the said island— where her son was, calling 
for victuals, whereupon the said Owen came with a number of boats, 
and ferried all the soldiers over to the island, where they were enter- 
tained with the best cheer that could be provided. That very night 
Owen was apprehended by his guests, and tied with a rope together 
with eighteen of his chief followers. In the morning the soldiers drew 
out of the island 4,000 cows, probably by ropes, 500 stud marcs and 
horses, and 1,000 sheep, leaving the rest of the poor people on the 
island naked and destitute. The soldiers then brought the prisoner* 
and cattle to Ballynahinch, where John Bingham halted. The same 
evening he caused the eighteen prisoners to be hanged, amongst whom 
there was an old gentleman of four score and ten years, Theobald 
O'Toole by name. The next night a false alarm was raised in the 
camp at midnight, when Owen, who was lying fast bound in the tent 
of Captain Grene O'Molloy, was murdered with twelve deadly wounds, 
and so, miserably ended his life. 

This murder of Owen, eldest son of Grania Uaile, is one of the 
ugliest deeds of Bingham's black record in Connaught. It was not 
directly his own doing, but it was the doing of his brother and agent, 
Captain John Bingham. It was one of those utterly cruel and treacher- 
ous deeds which still tend to preserve bitter memories in the hearts 
of the western Gael. 

After the death of her husband, Donall O'Flaherty, Grania probably 
returned to Clare Island, where she felt most secure and most at home. 
It is probable she took her young daughter with her, for Bingham ex- 
pressly tells us that the Devil's Hook of Corraun, their near neighbor 
in Clare Island, was her son-in-law. She doubtless made Clare Island 
her headquarters, and either built or strengthened the castle which 
still stands on a cliff over the little harbor. It was admirably situated 
close to the beach, on which her galleys were drawn up under her own 
eyes, so that when opportunity offered they were easily run down to 
the shore, and she would thus be ready to make her swoop on any part 
of the western coast without difficulty. With the Devil's Hook at 
Darby's Point or Kildavnet, and her cousins or nephews at Murrisk, 
and she herself at Clare, Grania held a very strong position against 
all her foes. But she was not content with one or two strongholds; she 
had at least half a dozen. At this time the Castle of Belclare was not 

Great Chiefs and Uncrowned Kings 155 

in her hands. It belonged first to McLaughlin O'Malley, chief of the 
name, and then to Owen Thomas O'Malley, who dwelt there in 1593. 
There is reason to think that Crania had also the Castle beyond Louis- 
burgh at Carramore, of which only traces now exist. It would be a use- 
ful stronghold to secure her passage to and from Clare Island. Then 
tradition connects her with the castle of Kildavnet, which she probably 
built to secure the passage through Achill Sound. It was thoroughly 
suited for that purpose, with deep water and secure anchorage against 
every wind and sea. Moreover, she took care to ally herself closely with 
the lord on the other side. This was Richard Burke, whom the Dublin 
officials called the Devil's Hook, which was an attempt at translating 
his Irish nick-name, Deamham an Chorain, the Demon of Corraun, 
because he was lord of that wild promontory, and I daresay, always 
ready for any wild deed. Crania gave her daughter in marriage to this 
Devil's Hook, so between them they were able to hold command 
of Achill Sound and Clew Bay. It is likely she gave him the ward of 
the Castle of Kildavnet. But she was not content with commanding 
the south entrance. From her castle of Doona, which, it is said, she 
seized by stratagem, she held control of the whole of Blacksod Bay. 
Crania was not content with all these castles. She also got possession 
of Carrigahowley— more politely called Rockfleet— in this way. It 
appears that it belonged to Richard Burke, as sub-tenant to the Earl 
of Ormond, commonly called Richard an Iarainn, or as the English 
writers call him, Richard in Iron, because he always wore a coat of 
mail. His mother was an O'Flaherty, and so he was closely connected 
with the family of her late husband, and he resolved to marry the young 
and enterprising widow; nor was Crania unwilling, for so she would 
become mistress of Carrigahowely, which suited her well. She became, 
in fact, both master and mistress, for Sir Henry Sydney, the Deputy, 
tells us, that when he came to Galway in 1576, there came to visit him 
there "a most famous feminine Sea-Captain called Crania O'Malley, 
and she offered her services to me wherever I would command her, 
with three galleys and 200 fighting men, either in Ireland or in Scot- 
land. She brought with her her husband, for she was, as well by sea 
as by land, more than master's mate to him. He was of the Nether 
Burkes, and now I hear is McWilliam Eoghter, called by nickname 
Richard in Iron." 

The Deputy clearly saw that Grania was master both on land and 
sea, but he made a knight of Richard in Iron, which greatly pleased 
that worthy himself, and Grania also, for she was now Lady Burke, 
although we never heard of her being called by that name, either in 
history or fiction. 

15 fi A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

This passage also shows that Grania had several large galleys, capable 
of carrying sixty or seventy men each, with twenty or thirty oarsmen 
to work them. With such a fleet at her disposal, well manned, and 
well equipped too from the spoils of the sea, Grania was more than 
able to hold her own against all comers, even against the much larger 
English vessels which dared not follow her into the creeks and island 
channels of Clew Bay. I am inclined to think that she and her seamen 
were not very scrupulous in differentiating their enemies; in fact she 
tells us herself, in reply to the Government interrogatories, that her 
former trade for many years was what she calls "maintenance by land 
and sea"; that is, she lifted and carried off whatever came handy on 
sea or shore from Celt or Saxon. We know for certain that she raided 
Aranmore more than once, and even the great Earl of Desmond's 
territory at the mouth of the Shannon. 

She was once more to set up at her old trade. It would appear she 
now made Carrigahowley her headquarters. The cruelty and greed of 
Sir R. Bingham drove the Mayo Burkes into rebellion in 1586; and the 
murder of her eldest son, already described, caused Grania to give 
her sympathies, and, to some extent, her help to the rebels. Her own 
statement is that after the death of her last husband "she gathered 
together all her own followers, and with 1,000 head of cows and mares 
she departed" (no doubt from her husband's residence) , and became 
a dweller in Carrigahowley at Burrishoole. After the murdering of 
her son Owen, the rebellion being then in Connaught, Sir Richard 
Bingham granted her letters of protection against all men, and willed 
her to remove from her late dwelling at Burrishoole, and come and 
dwell under him (somewhere near Donomona or Castlebar) . In her 
journey as she travelled she was encountered by five bands of soldiers 
under the leading of John Bingham (who had already caused her son 
to be murdered) , and thereupon she was apprehended and tied with 
a rope — both she and her followers; at the same instant they were 
spoiled of their said cattle, and of all that they ever had besides the 
same, and brought to Sir Richard, who caused a new pair of gallows 
to be made for her last funeral, when he thought to end her days; but 
she was set at liberty on the hostage and pledge of one Richard Burke, 
otherwise called the 'Devil's Hook' — that is, Richard of Corraun, her 
own son-in-law." 

"When she did rebel," she adds, "fear compelled her to fly by sea 
to Ulster, and there with O'Neill and O'Donnell she stayed three 
months, her galleys in the meantime having been broken by a storm. 
She returned then to Connaught, and in Dublin received her Majesty's 
gracious pardon through Sir John Perrott, six years ago, and was so 

Great Chiefs and Uncrowned Kings 157 

made free. Ever since she dwelleth in Connaught, a farmer's life, very 
poor, bearing cess, and paying her Majesty's composition rent, having 
utterly given over her former trade of maintenance by land and sea." 
It is quite clear from the State Papers, although not expressly stated, 
that Grania did visit London, and had an interview with Queen Eliza- 
beth, probably in 1593. In July of that year she had petitioned the 
Queen and Burghley for maintenance, and begged the Minister to 
accept the surrender of her sons' lands — that is her sons by both hus- 
bands — and grant them a patent for their lands on surrender. She also 
asked her Majesty's license to prosecute all her Majesty's enemies with 
fire and sword — a bold demand for an old lady over sixty, with sons 
and grandsons; but she knew it would please the Queen, and if granted 
would give her once more a free hand on the western coasts. It was at 
this very time that Bingham, in a letter to the Privy Council, describes 
Grania as "a notable traitress, and the nurse of all the rebellions in 
the province for forty years." Grania renewed her petition to Burghley 
two years later (in 1595) , "to be put in quiet possession of a third of 
the land of both her late husbands." She certainly went to London in 
1593, in the month of August, as Bingham's letter of September 19th 
shows, and if she went to London, no doubt she saw the Queen and her 
Minister, for nothing else would or could have induced her to go there 

at a11 ' • • r u- 

Unfortunately we have, so far as I know, no authentic account of this 

famous interview at Hampton Court. The two queens at this time 
were about the same age, and neither of them could be vain of her 
personal charms, for both were in the sere and yellow leaf. We may be 
sure they eyed each other with great curiosity, and took wondering 
note of each other's queenly raiment. The dialogue, too, must have 
been interesting, though doubtless carried on through an interpreter, 
for as Grania's husband, the late McWilliam knew no English, but was 
well skilled in Latin and Irish, we may fairly conclude that Grania, 
too, had no Beurla. There is reason to think that the English Queen 
granted Grania her requests, and sent her home rejoicing. 
' Grania, as she always preferred, travelled by sea, and on her home- 
ward voyage landed, it is said, at Howth, no doubt to procure supplies. 
Tired of the sea, and perhaps hungry too, she sought admission to 
Howth Castle during the dinner hour, but she found all the doors 
closed, and was not admitted to the Castle. This was not the Irish 
hospitality that Grania was accustomed to in the West, so she was 
wrathful, and happening to meet the young heir of Howth with his 
nurse in the grounds, she carried off the boy to her galley, and made 
all sail straightway for Clew Bay. The Lord of Howth. great nobleman 


A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

as he was. found it necessary to come to terms with Crania, and the 
child was restored, not on ransom, but on condition of the Lord of 
Howth promismg to keep his door open during dinner, and have a 
cover always set for the chance wayfarer by land or sea. More power 
to Grama for teaching them that lesson of hospitalityl Such is the 
story, of which the strongest proof is the fact that this custom has been 
for centuries undoubtedly observed at Howth Castle, and that a picture 
in the Castle Hall depicts the whole scene of Crania's exploit; but 
there is no really authentic evidence of the truth of the story. 

In her own day, and with her own weapons by land and sea, as 
Uingnam said, for more than forty years she fought a stubborn fight 
on the shores and islands of Clew Bay. Her memory still clings as close 
as their sheltering ivy to the old castles that she built. Almost every- 
thing around Clew Bay is associated with her memory. Her undying 
presence still haunts its shores and island- 

Brian of the Ramparts O'Rourke 

In Bingham's time the strongest chief in the west of Ireland was the 
O'Rourke, Brian na Murtha, Lord of Leitrim. This chieftain was a 
tall and remarkably handsome man. His most distinguishing charac- 
teristic was pride. All the lord deputies and presidents who had any- 
thing to do with him remarked upon this trait. "He was the proudest 
man with whom I had to do in my time," wrote Sir Henry Sidney. 
''The proudest man who walks upon the earth today," wrote Malby. 
"The proud beggar— the insolent, drunken, proud beggarl" wrote the 
fiercer and more abusive Bingham. As to the charge of drunkenness, 
I can only say this: I have myself seen in the Record Office, at the Four 
Courts, this man's signature written when he was quite old, at the 
foot of a certain State document, and I never saw more exquisite 
calligraphy. The characters are small, regular, and of most delicate 

When Bingham came into the Province, O'Rourke had been several 
times in rebellion, and had always beaten the Government. Then, 
when Perrott was made Viceroy, O'Rourke at once made his submis- 
sion to Perrott. He recognized the heir of Henry VIII as his lawful 
superior, and shaped his course accordingly. Besides, he liked Perrott 
and Perrott liked him. Perrott induced him to join in the "composi- 

By Standish O'Grady, in The Gael, February, 1901, pp. 42-43. New York. 

Great Chiefs and Uncrowned Kings 159 

tion" of Connaught and lay down his O'Rourkeship with all its privi- 
leges and powers. Then he legally ceased to be a chieftain and became 
only a great landlord. He retained a great deal of Leitrim in his own 
hands, and received fixed rents from the proprietors of the remainder. 
When his friend Perrott departed, O'Rourke was left face to face with 
Bingham whom he disliked and despised. 

During the Armada winter he received and sheltered some Spanish 
sailors. The Government demanded their surrender with the inten- 
tion of hanging them as they had hanged all the rest. O'Rourke replied 
that it did not consist with his honor as a gentleman or his dignity 
as a prince to surrender men whom he had admitted to the rites Of 
hospitality. Bingham now, without notice, collected his forces and 
fell upon him. Bingham thought to surprise him in his castle on the 
shores of Lough Gill, but as snow lay on the ground, Bingham's people 
were seen, and in short, this swoop on Bingham's part came to noth- 
ing. O'Rourke then went into rebellion, and as a preliminary desired 
his sheriff to shift somewhere else for an office. His eldest son was at 
the time a student at Oxford. O'Rourke sent one of his gentlemen, 
Charles Trevor, thither secretly. Young O'Rourke. afterwards cele- 
brated as Brian Oge of the Battle-Axes, ran away from Oxford in 
company with Trevor, and came home through Scotland and Ulster. 
He immediately took the field as one of his father's chief lieutenants. 
In this rebellion O'Rourke stirred up North Connaught, and kin- 
dled a fierce flame of war. He sent for all the wood-kerne and bad 
subjects and licensed them to make prey within the borders of Bing- 
ham's presidency. In reply to a letter from Perrott he said he would 
be under the government of no man in the land save the Viceroy. The 
Government sent commissioners to treat with him— judges and bish- 
ops. O'Rourke received them en roi. He did not stir from his place to 
meet them or once remove his cap from his head. He regarded him- 
self as a sovereign prince owning no superiors on earth save the Queen 
and her deputy. . 

Eventually, Bingham having beaten the North Connaught insur- 
gents, invaded Breffney, or the Breffney O'Rourke's country, in three 
divisions. O'Rourke's own feudatories revolted against him, and the 
constable of his forces turned traitor and joined Bingham. O'Rourke 
now went into the north to his ally, the McSweeny, Red Hugh's foster 
father. Red Hugh was at this time prisoner in Dublin Castle. Mc- 
Sweeny, hardly knowing how he was to deal with this extraordinary 
proud and haughty being, in the end surrendered to him his own 
chieftainship. O'Rourke would not be chieftain without exercising a 
chief's functions, and actually hanged some of McSweeny's own kins- 

160 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

men. Eventually he went to Scotland to seek aid from some of the 
great Scotch nobles. He was there arrested by James VI, who in pur- 
suit of some tortuous State policy sent him forward to London as a 
present to the Queen. He was brought before the council, Cecil, Wal- 
singham and the rest. The council looked at their remarkable captive 
so long known to them by report, now seen at last in the flesh, and 
the captive looked at the council, so long known to him, man by man. 
He stood erect, not a joint bending in back or knee, with his hat on, 
as when at Dromahaire he received the Commissioners of the Viceroy 
a captive but also a king. 

"Why don't you kneel?" asked one of the council, when they began 
to recover from the curious dramatic influence of the nature of the 
situation. He spoke in Latin, a tongue almost as familiar as Irish to 
the elder generation of the Irish and Norman-Irish chiefs. "Cur genua 
non flcctis?" "I am not so used. Non sum ita facera solitus." "Are you 
not used to kneel before pictures? Genua coram nonne es solitus 
imaginibus flectere?" 

"Yes, of God's saints — between whom and you there is much differ- 
ence, multum distat." 

Dismissed by the council, he was a second time brought from the 
Tower of the Court of Queen's Bench to be tried before a jury on the 
charge of high treason. 

The indictment having been read and translated for his benefit, for 
he did not understand English, Brian refused to plead save on four 

(1) The assistance of an advocate. 

(2) The affidavits forwarded out of Ireland to be put in my hands. 
(S) The presence and examinations in court of the persons who 

swore the affidavits. 

(4) The Queen in person to preside as judge at my trial. 

"The fellow with a barbarous insolence," writes Camden, "refused 
to plead save on these conditions." 

The first three everyone will agree to have been mere justice. In 
the fourth we see the well-known pride of the man, surely an honor- 
able pride, self-respect of an admirable and even heroic sort. To no 
jury of the fat and greasy sort would he make his defence, but to his 
liege and sovereign. All those Irish princes in the midst of their most 
furious rebellions never denied that the Queen was their sovereign. 
They rebelled against her officers and presidents, such as Bingham, 
who came with their intolerable wrongdoings between them and their 
Queen. I am surprised that the Queen did not pardon him. She under- 
itood Ireland well enough to know that men might rebel against her 

Great Chiefs and Uncrowned Kings 161 

officers and yet entertain feelings of loyalty and regard for herself. 

In O'Rourke's case, her mind seems to have been preoccupied by an 
outrageous slander. It was charged against him that he had dragged 
the Queen's picture at the heels of his warhorse, and that he had stood 
by and approved while his men thrust their battle-axes through it. 
Bingham, mendacious as well as ferocious, sent this story to London. 
Great attempts were made to get it proved, but not the slightest evi- 
dence of any sort or description in support of the charge could be dis- 
covered. The nearest thing to evidence was the following: An image 
of the Virgin Mary was discovered in his country, and an ultra-clever 
official deemed that this image might have been assumed by the chief- 
tain to be the effigy of the Queen and might have been treated in the 
manner described. But he confesses, honest man, that there were no 
marks of thrustings or slashings upon it. This was the nearest thing to 

The charge was, of course, a vile slander. No man of O'Rourke's 
type, indeed no Irish gentleman of the period, could have stooped to 
such low rascal insolence. 

To O'Rourke's most reasonable demands the Chief Justice replied 
that they could not be granted, adding further that if he persisted in 
his refusal to plead, he would be obliged to consider the charge of high 
treason as proved, and proceed to pass sentence of death. 

"You will do as you please," replied the prince. Fades ut tua est 


The Chief Justice sentenced him to death. He was led from the 
court, and a few days afterwards was beheaded at Tyburn. Such was 
the end of Brian-of-the-Ramparts, the first cousin of Red Hugh. There 
is surely something very refreshing in this proud refusal of the 
O'Rourke to plead his cause before a hired brehon and a parcel of 
money-grubbing London shopkeepers. His own chief tenants charged 
with treason were judged by himself, or a court of his chieftains over 
which he presided. He would accept no lower tribunal for himself, 
though his head should roll for it. 

O'Rourke's last recorded speech was also highly characteristic. At 
the time of his execution there was a very vile Irish ecclesiastic in Lon- 
don, Miler Magrath, Archbishop of Cashel, a most sordid and knavish 
creature, an awful devourer of Church property— a perfect glutton 
in that way. In the next generation Strafford compelled his sons and 
nephews to disgorge a great deal of it. This ecclesiastical rascal, seeing 
a fellow-countryman led to the scaffold, thought to join the procession, 
and administer religious consolation, by the way, to the chieftain. 

162 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

O'Rourke looked askance at Miler, and for the last time unclosed his 
laconic lips. 

"I think," said he, "thou art a Franciscan who has broken thy vows." 
Such was the exit of Brian-of-the-Ramparts O'Rourke, the proudest 
man who walked upon the earth in his day. 

He was succeeded by his son Brian-of-the-Battle-axes, who fixed him- 
self in the Iron Mountains (Silabh an Iarann) and thence waged 
truceless war with Bingham, beat Bingham, recovered his father's terri- 
tory, and did some considerable things in his day. Indeed, a foray on 
his territory by Bingham, wherein his milch cows were driven from his 
lawn (an intolerable insult) was the proximate cause of the Nine 
Years War. 

The Nine Years' War: Its Leaders and Battles 

The policy of the English court with regard to the magnates who 
were the actual rulers of the country outside the English Pale was to 
get from each and every one of them something which the representa- 
tives of the realm had never yet given — a whole-hearted recognition 
through the Parliament in Dublin of the English sovereign as effective 
ruler of Ireland. Such recognition had become less possible through the 
fact that the sovereign would have to be recognized not only as the 
head of the realm but the head of the church. Neither the Gaelic 
chiefs, the Norman-Irish nobles, nor even the older English settled in 
Ireland (the poet Richard Stanihurst would be representative of such 
families) could be brought round easily to doing this. On the practical 
level, then, English policy was directed towards preventing alliances 
among the magnates or the emergence of any personage who might 
get to such eminence as to draw a considerable part of the country to 
him and enable him to form an alliance with Scotland, France or 
Spain. The usual method used by the vigilant and adroit English 
agents in Ireland was to divide the great houses by setting up one 
branch against another or one member against another: such a person 
might be made a dependent on English power, and, in return for the 
backing of his privileges, put his armed levies at the disposal of the 
Crown. If the splitting up of a ruling family could not be effected, 
more strong-arm methods were used. 

By the editor. 

Great Chiefs and Uncrowned Kings 163 

And this brings us to the entrance into Irish history of two famous 
personages, each of whom had received characteristic treatment 
through English statecraft— Hugh O'Neill and Hugh O'Donnell. 

At this stage Ulster was more of a center of resistance to English 
infiltration than any other part of Ireland. Its paramount princes, 
cherishing a descent from a dynasty that had lasted five hundred years', 
the dynasty of Niall, had a kingly consciousness. These Ulster dvnasts 
were just across from Scotland and so were at the receiving end for 
the soldiery from the Hebrides who regularly took service with the 
Irish lords. The violent suppression of what was called "The Desmond 
Rebellion" with the extirpation of the heads of the House of Kildare 
had left the Ulster principalities strong vis-a-vis the rest of Ireland. 
But the principalities were divided. There was a feud between O'Don- 
nell and O'Neill, and inside each family there were members who 
found or would find advantage in favoring the Crown. 

O'Neill's territory was Tir-Eoin, the modern county of Tyrone: 
O'Donnell's territory, Tir-Connail, the modern county of Donegal. We 
have heard of Matthew O'Neill. Denounced by Shane as a bastard, he 
had taken the English title of Baron of Dungannon. His son, Hugh, 
was taken to England, fostered in one of the great English houses. lived 
as a young man in contact with the court, and received the training of 
a young English noble of the time. It was expected that he would get 
an English cast of mind. Let us say that, brought up outside Ireland, 
he got the Renaissance cast of mind. 

It would be of immense interest to know how a young Irish noble 
responded to the life of the higher circles in Elizabethan England. 
That we have no way of knowing. He was a great personage for the 
English of his time. When Drayton came to write of momentous 
events they include: 

Tyrone his peace to gain, 
The quiet end of that long-living Queen, 
The King's fair entry and the peace with Spain. 

Hugh O'Neill, Earl of Tyrone to the English and "The O'Neill" to the 
Irish was a man of two worlds. He kept English people close to him. 
His second wife was Mabel Bagnal, sister of Marshal Bagnal, an Eng- 
lish commander in Ireland. The enmity between O'Neill and Bagnal 
gives personal drama to the campaign in which each was leader. 

Younger than O'Neill was the cadet of the O'Donnell family whose 
name, too, was Hugh. In him were the two Gaelic strains, that of 
Ireland and that of Scotland. From his adolescence Hugh Roe O'Don- 
nell was remarkable. The bright hair from which he derived his nick- 

164 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

name ("Ruadh" or "Red") enhanced the vividness of his appearance, 
and this vividness went with a quickness that all who encountered him 
remarked— a quickness of movement and of thought. He understood 
war, but he did not, as O'Neill did, understand policy. His career 
could be used as an illustration of the murkiness of the English design 
in Ireland. Held in captivity as a youth, he was poisoned while a 
refugee in Spain by an English agent who happened to be Anglo- 

The Two Hughs 

Near Rathmullan, on the western shore of Lough Swilly, looking 
towards the mountains of Innishowen, stood a monastery of Carmelites 
and a church dedicated to the Blessed Virgin, the most famous place 
of devotion in Tyrconnell, whither all the clan-Connell, both chiefs and 
people, made resort at certain seasons to pay their devotions. Here the 
young Red Hugh, with Mac Swyne of the battle-axes, O'Gallagher of 
Ballyshannon, and some other chiefs, were in the summer of 1587 
sojourning a short time in that part to pay their vows of religion; but 
not without stag-hounds and implements of chase, having views upon 
the red-deer of Fanad and Innishowen. One day, while the prince was 
here, a swift-sailing merchant ship doubled the promontory of Dunaff, 
stood up the lough, and cast anchor opposite Rathmullan; a "bark, 
black-hatched, deceptive," bearing the flag of England, and offering for 
sale, as a peaceful trader, her cargo of Spanish wine. And surely no 
more courteous merchant than the master of the ship had visited the 
north for many a year. He invited the people most hospitably on board, 
solicited them, whether purchasers or not, to partake of his good cheer, 
entertained them with music and wine, and so gained very speedily 
the good will of all Fanad. Red Hugh and his companions soon heard 
of the obliging merchant and his rare wines. They visited the ship, 
where they were received with all respect, and, indeed, with unfeigned 
joy; descended into the cabin, and with connoisseur discrimination 
tried and tasted, and finally drank too deeply; and at last when they 
would come on deck and return to the shore, they found themselves 
secured under hatches; their weapons had been removed; night had 
fallen; they were prisoners to those traitor Saxons. Morning dawned. 

From The Story of Ireland, by A. M. Sullivan, pp. 241-264. M. H. Gill & Son, 
Ltd. Dublin. 1905. 

Great Chiefs and Uncrowned Kings 165 

and they looked anxiously towards the shore; but, ahl where is Rath- 
mullan and the Carmelite church? And what wild coast is this? Past 
Malin and the cliffs of Innishowen; past Benmore, and southward to 
the shores of Antrim and the mountains of Mourne flew that ill-omened 
bark, and never dropped anchor till she lay under the towers of Dublin. 
The treacherous Perrott joyfully received his prize, and "exulted," says 
an historian, "in the easiness and success with which he had procured 
hostages for the peaceable submission of O'Donnell." And the prince 
of Tyrconnell was thrown into "a strong stone castle," and kept in 
heavy irons three years and three months, "meditating," says the chron- 
icle, "on the feeble and impotent condition of his friends and relations, 
of his princes and supreme chiefs, of his nobles and clergy, his poets 
and professors." 

Three long and weary years — ohl but they seemed three agesl — the 
young Hugh pined in the gTated dungeons of that "Bermingham 
Tower," which still stands in Dublin Castle yard. "Three years and 
three months," the old chroniclers tell us — when harkl there is whis- 
pering furtively betimes as young Hugh and Art Kavanagh, and other 
of the captives meet on the stone stairs, or the narrow landing, by the 
warders' gracious courtesy. Yes; Art had a plan of escape. 

It is even so. And now all is arranged, and the daring attempt waits 
but a night favourably dark and wild — which comes at last; and while 
the sentries shelter themselves from the pitiless sleet, the young fugi- 
tives, at peril of life or limb, are stealthily scaling or descending bastion 
and battlement, fosse and barbican. With beating hearts they pass the 
last sentry, and now through the city streets they grope their way south- 
wards; for the nearest hand of succour is amidst the valleys of Wick- 
low. Theirs is a slow and toilsome progress; they know not the paths, 
and they must hide by day and fly as best they can in the night-time 
through wooded country. At length they cross the Three Rock Moun- 
tain, and look down upon Glencree. But alasl Young Hugh sinks down 
exhausted 1 Three years in a dungeon have cramped his limbs, and he 
is no longer the Hugh that bounded like a deer on the slopes of Glen- 
vighl His feet are torn and bleeding from sharp rock and piercing 
brambles; his strength is gone. He exhorts his companions to speed 
onwards and save themselves, while he awaits succour if they can send 
it. Reluctantly, and only yielding to his urgent entreaties, they de- 
parted. A faithful servant, we are told, who had been in the secret of 
Hugh's escape, still remained with him, and repaired for succour to 
the house of Felim O'Tuhal. Felim was known to be a friend, though 
he dared not openly disclose the fact. But now "the flight of the pris- 
oners had created great excitement in Dublin, and numerous bands 

166 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

were despatched in pursuit of them." It was next to impossible-cer- 
tainly full of danger— for the friendly O'Tuhal, with the English 
scounng-parties spread all over hill and vale, to bring in the exhausted 
and helpless fugitive from his hiding place, where nevertheless he must 
perish if not quickly reached. Sorrowfully and reluctantly Felim was 
forced to conclude that all hope of escape for young Hugh this time 
must be abandoned, and that the best course was to pretend to discover 
him in the copse, and to make a merit of giving him up to his pursuers. 
So, with a heart bursting with mingled rage, grief, and despair, Hugh 
found himself once more in the grip of his savage foes. He was brought 
back to Dublin "loaded with heavy iron fetters," and flung into a 
narrower and stronger dungeon, to spend another year cursing the day 
that Norman foot had touched the Irish shore. 

There he lay until Christmas Day, 25th December, 1592. Henry and 
Art O'Neill, fellow-prisoners, were on this occasion companions of 
Hugh's flight. In fact the lord deputy, Fitzwilliam. a needy and corrupt 
creature, had taken a bribe from Hugh O'Neill to afford opportunity 
for the escape. Hugh of Dungannon had designs of his own in desiring 
the freedom of all three; for events to be noted further on had been 
Occurring, and already he was, like a skilful statesman, preparing for 
future contingencies. He knew that the liberation of Red Hugh would 
give him an ally worth half Ireland, and he knew that rescuing the two 
O'Neills would leave the government without a "queen's O'Neill" to 
set up against him at a future day. Of this escape Haverty gives us 
the following account: 

"They descended by a rope through a sewer which opened into the 
Castle ditch; and leaving there the soiled outer garments, they were 
conducted by a young man, named Turlough Roe O'Hagan, the con- 
fidential servant or emissary of the Earl of Tyrone, who was sent to act 
as their guide. Passing through the gates of the city, which were still 
open, three of the party reached the same Slieve Rua which Hugh had 
visited on the former occasion. The fourth, Henry O'Neill, strayed 
from his companions in some way — probably before they left the city — 
but eventually he reached Tyrone, where the earl seized and im- 
prisoned him. Hugh Roe and Art O'Neill, with their faithful guide, 
proceeded on their way over the Wicklow mountains towards Glen- 
malure. to Feagh Mac Hugh O'Byrne, a chief famous for his heroism, 
and who was then in arms against the government. Art O'Neill had 
grown corpulent in prison, and besides been hurt in descending from 
the Castle, so that he became quite worn out from fatigue. The party 
were also exhausted with hunger, and as the snow fell thickly, and their 
clothing was very scanty, they suffered additionally from intense cold. 

Great Chiefs and Uncrowned Kings 167 

For awhile Red Hugh and the servant supported Art between them; 
but this exertion could not long be sustained, and at length Red Hugh 
and Art lay down exhausted under a lofty rock, and sent the servant 
to Glenmalure for help. With all possible speed Feagh O'Byrne, on 
receiving the message, despatched some of his trusty men to carry the 
necessary succour; but they arrived almost too late at the precipice 
under which the two youths lay. 'Their bodies,' say the Four Masters, 
'were covered with white-bordered shrouds of hailstones freezing 
around them, and their light clothes adhered to their skin, so that, 
covered as they were with the snow, it did not appear to the men who 
had arrived that they were human beings at all, for they found no life 
in their members, but just as if they were dead. On being raised up, 
Art O'Neill fell back and expired, and was buried on the spot; but 
Red Hugh was revived with some difficulty, and carried to Glen- 
malure, where he was secreted in a sequestered cabin and attended by 
a physician." 

O'Byrne brought them to his house and revived and warmed and 
clothed them, and instantly sent a messenger to Hugh O'Neill (with 
whom he was then in close alliance) with the joyful tidings of O'Don- 
nell's escape. O'Neill heard it with delight, and sent a faithful retainer, 
Tarlough Buidhe O'Hagun, who was well acquainted with the country, 
to guide the young chief into Ulster, where O'Neill received them right 
joyfully. And here "the two Hughs" entered into a strict and cordial 
friendship, and told each other of their wrongs and of their hopes. 
O'Neill listened, with such feelings as one can imagine, to the story of 

the youth's base kidnapping and cruel imprisonment in darkness and 
chains; and the impetuous Hugh Roe heard with scornful rage of the 
English deputy's atrocity towards Mac Mahon, and attempts to bring 
his accursed sheriffs and juries amongst the ancient Irish of Ulster. 
And they deeply swore to bury for ever the unhappy feuds of their 
families, and to stand by each other with all the powers of the North 
against their treacherous and relentless foe. The chiefs parted, and 
O'Donnell, with an escort of the Tyrowen cavalry, passed into 
Maguire's country. The chief of Fermanagh received him with honour, 
eagerly joined in the confederacy. 

We may conceive with what stormy joy the tribes of Tyrconnell 
welcomed their prince; with what mingled pity and wrath, thanks- 
giving and curses, they heard of his chains, and wanderings, and suffer- 
ings, and beheld the feet that used to bound so lightly on the hills, 
swollen and crippled by that cruel frost, by the crueller fetters of the 
Saxon. But little time was now for festal rejoicing or the unprofitable 
luxury of cursing; for just then, Sir Richard Bingham, the English 

168 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

leader in Connaught, relying on the irresolute nature of old O'Donnell, 
and not aware of Red Hugh's return, had sent two hundred men by 
sea to Donegal, where they took by surprise the Franciscan monastery, 
drove away the monks (making small account of their historic studies 
and learned annals), and garrisoned the buildings for the queen. The 
fiery Hugh could ill endure to hear of these outrages, or brook an Eng- 
lish garrison upon the soil of Tyrconnell. He collected the people in 
hot haste, led them instantly into Donegal, and commanded the Eng- 
lish by a certain day and hour to betake themselves with all speed back 
to Connaught, and leave behind them the rich spoils they had taken; 
all which they thought it prudent without further parley to do. And so 
the monks of St. Francis returned to their home and their books, gave 
thanks to God, and prayed, as well they might, for Hugh O'Donnell. 

During the four years over which the imprisonment of Red Hugh 
extended, important events had been transpiring in the outer world; 
and amidst them the character of Hugh of Dungannon was undergoing 
a rapid transmutation. We had already seen him cultivating friendly 
relations with the neighbouring chiefs, though most of them were in a 
state of open hostility to the queen. He, by degrees, went much farther 
than this. He busied himself in the disloyal work of healing the feuds 
of the rival clans, and extending throughout the north feelings of 
amity — nay, a net-work of alliances between them. To some of the 
native princes he lends one or two of his fully trained companies of 
foot; to others, some troops of his cavalry. He secretly encourages some 
of them (say his enemies at court) to stouter resistance to the English. 
It is even said that he harbours Popish priests. "North of Slieve Gullion 
the venerable brehons still arbitrate undisturbed the causes of the 
people; the ancient laws, civilization, and religion stand untouched. 
Nay, it is credibly rumoured to the Dublin deputy that this noble earl, 
forgetful apparently of his coronet and golden chain, and of his high 
favour with so potent a princess, does about this time get recognized 
and solemnly inaugurated as chieftain of his sept, by the proscribed 
name of "The O'Neill"; and at the rath of Tulloghoge, on the Stone of 
Royalty, amidst the circling warriors, amidst the bards and ollamhs of 
Tyr-eoghain, "receives an oath to preserve all the ancient former cus- 
toms of the country inviolable, and to deliver up the succession peace- 
ably to his tanist; and then hath a wand delivered to him by one whose 
proper office that is, after which, descending from the stone, he turneth 
himself round thrice forward and thrice backward," even as the 
O'Neills had done for a thousand years; altogether in the most un- 

Great Chiefs and Uncrowned Kings 169 

English manner, and with the strangest ceremonies, which no garter 
king-at-arms could endure. 

While matters were happening thus in Ulster, England was under- 
going the excitement of apprehended invasion. The Armada of Philip 
the Second was on the sea, and the English nation — queen and people 
— Protestant and Catholic — persecutor and persecuted — with a burst of 
genuine patriotism, prepared to meet the invaders. The elements, how- 
ever, averted the threatened doom. A hurricane of unexampled fury scat- 
tered Philip's flotilla, so vauntingly styled "invincible"; the ships were 
strewn, shattered wrecks, all over the coasts of England and Ireland. In 
the latter country the crews were treated very differently, according as 
they happened to be cast upon the shores of districts amenable to 
English authority or influences, or the reverse. In the former instances 
they were treated barbarously — slain as queen's enemies, or given up 
to the queen's forces. In the latter, they were sheltered and succoured, 
treated as friends, and afforded means of safe return to their native 
Spain. Some of these ships were cast upon the coast of O'Neill's country, 
and by no one were the Spanish crews more kindly treated, more 
warmly befriended, than by Hugh, erstwhiles the queen's most favored 
protegi, and still professedly her most true and obedient servant. This 
hospitality to the shipwrecked Spaniards, however, is too much for 
English flesh and blood to bear. Hugh is openly murmured against in 
Dublin and in London. And soon formal proof of his "treason" is pre- 
ferred. An envious cousin of his, known as Shane of the Fetters — a nat- 
ural son of Shane the Proud, by the false wife of O'Donnell — animated 
by a mortal hatred of Hugh, gave information to the lord deputy that 
he had not only regaled the Spanish officers right royally at Dungan- 
non, but had then and there planned with them an alliance between 
himself and king Philip, to whom Hugh — so said his accuser — had for- 
warded letters and presents by the said officers. All of which the said 
accuser undertook to prove, either upon the body of Hugh in mortal 
combat, or before a jury well and truly packed or empanelled, as the 
case might be. Whereupon there was dreadful commotion in Dublin 
Castle. Hugh's reply was — to arrest the base informer on a charge of 
treason against the sacred person and prerogatives of his lawful chief. 
Which charge being proved, Shane of the Fetters was at once executed. 

After this comes Hugh O'Neill's romantic marriage. We quote from 
Haverty's narrative. 

"This man — the marshal, Sir Henry Bagnal — hated the Irish with a 
rancour which bad men are known to feel towards those whom they 
have mortally injured. He had shed a great deal of their blood, ob- 
tained a great deal of their lands, and was the sworn enemy of the 

170 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

whole race. Sir Henry had a sister who was young and exceedingly 
beautiful. The wife of the Earl of Tyrone, the daughter of Sir Hugh 
Mac Manus O'Donnell, had died, and the heart of the Irish chieftain 
was captivated by the beautiful English girl. His love was reciprocated, 
and he became in due form a suitor for her hand; but all efforts to gain 
her brother's consent to this marriage were in vain. The Irish prince 
and the English maiden mutually plighted their vows, and O'Neill pre- 
sented to the lady a gold chain worth one hundred pounds; but the in- 
exorable Sir Henry removed his sister from Newry to the house of Sir 
Patrick Barnwell, who was married to another of his sisters, and who 
lived about seven miles from Dublin. Hither the earl followed her. He 
was courteously received by Sir Patrick, and seems to have had many 
friends among the English. One of these, a gentleman named William 
Warren, acted as his confidant, and at a party at Barnwell's house, the 
earl engaged the rest of the company in conversation while Warren 
rode off with the lady behind him, accompanied by two servants, and 
carried her safely to the residence of a friend at Drumcondra, near 
Dublin. Here O'Neill soon followed, and the Protestant bishop of 
Meath, Thomas Jones, a Lancashire man, was easily induced to come 
and unite them in marriage the same evening. This elopement and 
marriage, which took place on the 3rd of August, 1591, were made the 
subject of violent accusations against O'Neill. Sir Henry Bagnal was 
furious, was henceforth his most implacable foe, and the circumstance 
was not without its influence on succeeding events." 

By this time young Hugh Roe O'Donnell was made the O'Donnell 
with the ancient ceremonies of his race. 

The young chief did not wear his honours idly. In the Dublin 
dungeons he had sworn vows, and he was not the man to break them; 
vows that while his good right hand could draw a sword, the English 
should have no peace in Ireland. Close by the O'Donnell's territory, in 
Strabane, old Torlogh Lynagh O'Neill had admitted an English force 
as "auxiliaries" forsooth. "And it was a heartbreak," says the old chron- 
icler, "to Hugh O'Donnell, that the English of Dublin should thus 
obtain a knowledge of the country." He fiercely attacked Strabane, and 
chased the obnoxious English "auxiliaries" away, "pardoning old 
Torlogh only on solemn promise not to repeat his offence. From this 
forth Red Hugh engaged himself in what we may call a circuit of the 
north, rooting out English garrisons, sheriffs, seneschals, or function- 
aries of what sort soever, as zealously and scrupulously as if they were 
plague-pests. Woe to the English chief that admitted a queen's sheriff 
within his territories! Hugh was down upon him like a whirlwindl 

Great Chiefs and Uncrowned Kings 171 

O'Donnell's cordial ally in this crusade was Maguire, lord of Ferma- 
nagh, a man truly worthy of such a colleague. Hugh of Dungannon 
saw with dire concern this premature conflict precipitated by Red 
Hugh's impetuosity. Very probably he was not unwilling that O'Don- 
nell should find the English some occupation yet awhile in the north; 
but the time had not at all arrived (in his opinion) for the serious and 
comprehensive undertaking of a stand-up fight for the great stake of 
national freedom. But it was vain for him to try remonstrance with 
Hugh Roe, whose nature could ill brook restraint, and who, indeed, 
could not relish or comprehend at all the subtle and politic Slowness 
of O'Neill. Hugh of Dungannon, however, would not allow himself at 
any hazard to be pushed or drawn into open action a day or an hour 
sooner than his own judgment approved. He could hardly keep out of 
the conflict so close beside him, and so, rather than be precipitated 
prematurely into the struggle which, no doubt, he now deemed in- 
evitable, and for which, accordingly, he was preparing, he made show 
of joining the queen's side, and led some troops against Maguire. It 
was noted, however, that the species of assistance which he gave the 
English generally consisted in "moderating" Hugh Roe's punishment 
of them, and pleading with him merely to sweep them away a little 
more gently; "interfering," as Moryson informs us, "to save their lives, 
on condition of their instantly quitting the country!" Now this seemed 
to the English (small wonder indeed) a very queer kind of "help." It 
was not what suited them at all; and we need not be surprised that 
soon Hugh's accusers in Dublin and in London once more, and more 
vehemently than ever, demanded his destruction. 

It was now the statesmen and courtiers of England began to feel that 
craft may overleap itself. In the moment when first they seriously con- 
templated Hugh as a foe to the queen, they felt like "the engineer hoist 
by his own petard." Here was their own pupil, trained under their own 
hands, versed in their closest secrets, and let into their most subtle arts! 
Here was the steel they had polished and sharpened to pierce the heart 
of Ireland, now turned against their own breastl No wonder there was 
dismay and consternation in London and Dublin — it was so hard to 
devise any plan against him that Hugh would not divine like one of 
themselves! Failing any better resort, it was resolved to inveigle him 
into Dublin by offering him a safe-conduct, and, this document not- 
withstanding, to seize him at all hazards. Accordingly Hugh was duly 
notified of charges against his loyalty, and a royal safe-conduct was 
given to him that he might "come in and appear." To the utter aston- 
ishment of the plotters, he came with the greatest alacrity, and daringly 
confronted them at the council-board in the Castle! He would have 

172 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

been seized in the room, but for the nobly honourable conduct of the 
Earl of Ormond, whose indignant letter to the lord treasurer Burleigh 
(in reply to the queen's order to seize O'Neill) is recorded by Carte: — 
"My lord, I will never use treachery to any man; for it would both 
touch her highness's honour and my own credit too much; and whoso- 
ever gave the queen advice thus to write, is fitter for such base service 
than I am. Saving my duty to her majesty, I would I might have re- 
venge by my sword of any man that thus persuaded the queen to write 
to me." Ormond acquainted O'Neill with the perfidy designed against 
him, and told him that if he did not fly that night he was lost, as the 
false deputy was drawing a cordon around Dublin. O'Neill made his 
escape, and prepared to meet the crisis which now he knew to be at 
hand. News soon reached him in the north that large reinforcements 
were on their way from England, that garrisons were to be forced upon 
Ballyshannon and Belleek, commanding die passes into Tyrconnell, 
between Lough Erne and the sea. The strong fortress of Portmore also, 
on the southern bank of the Blackwater, was to be strengthened and 
well manned; thus forming, with Newry and Greencastle, a chain of 
forts across the island, and a basis for future operations against the 

There was no misunderstanding all this. "It was clear that, let King 
Philip send his promised aid, or send it not, open and vigorous resist- 
ance must be made to the further progress of foreign power, or Ulster 
would soon become an English province." Moreover, in all respects, 
save the aid from Spain, Hugh was well forward in organization and 
preparation. A great Northern Confederacy, the creation of his master- 
mind, now spanned the land from shore to shore, and waited only for 
him to take his rightful place as leader, and give the signal for such a 
war as had not tried the strength of England for two hundred years. 

At last the time had come; and Dungannon with stern joy beheld 
unfurled the royal standard of O'Neill, displaying, as it floated proudly 
on the breeze, that terrible Red Right Hand upon its snow-white folds, 
waving defiance to the Saxon queen, dawning like a new Aurora upon 
the awakened children of Heremon. 

With a strong body of horse and foot, O'Neill suddenly appeared 
upon the Blackwater, stormed Portmore, and drove away its garrison, 
as carefully as he would have driven poison from his heart; then 
demolished the fortress, burned down the bridge, and advanced into 
O'Reilly's country, everywhere driving the English and their adherents 
before him to the south (but without wanton bloodshed, slaying no 
man save in battle, for cruelty is nowhere charged against O'Neill); and 

Great Chiefs and Uncrowned Kings 173 

finally, with Mac Guire and Mac Mahon, he laid close siege to Monag- 
han, which was still held for the queen of England. O'Donnell, on his 
side, crossed the Saimer at the head of his fierce clan, burst into Con- 
naught, and shutting up Bingham's troops in their strong places at 
Sligo, Ballymote, Tulsk, and Boyle, traversed the country with aveng- 
ing fire and sword, putting to death every man who could speak no 
Irish, ravaging their lands, and sending the spoil to Tyrconnell. Then 
he crossed the Shannon, entered the Annally's, where O'Ferghal was 
living under English dominion, and devastated that country so furi- 
ously, that "the whole firmament," says the chronicle, "was one black 
cloud of smoke." 

This rapidity of action took the English at complete disadvantage. 
They accordingly (merely to gain time) feigned a great desire to 
"treat" with the two Hughs. Perhaps those noble gentlemen had been 
wronged. If so, the queen's tender heart yearned to have them recon- 
ciled; and so forth. Hugh, owing to his court training, understood this 
kind of thing perfectly. It did not impose upon him for a moment; yet 
he consented to give audience to the royal commissioners, whom he 
refused to see except at the head of his army, "nor would he enter any 
walled town as liege man of the queen of England." "So they met," we 
are told, "in the open plain, in the presence of both armies." The con- 
ditions of peace demanded by Hugh were: 

1. Complete cessation of attempts to disturb the Catholic Church in 

2. No more garrisons — no more sheriffs or English officials of any 
sort soever to be allowed into the Irish territories, which should be 
unrestrictedly under the jurisdiction of their lawfully elected native 

3. Payment by Marshal Bagnal to O'Neill of one thousand pounds 
of silver "as a marriage portion with the lady whom he had raised to 
the dignity of an O'Neill's bride." 

We may imagine how hard the royal commissioners must have found 
it to even hearken to these propositions, especially this last keen touch 
at Bagnal. "The rebels grew insolent," says Moryson. The utmost that 
could be obtained from O'Neill was a truce of a few days' duration. 

Early in June, Bagnal took the field with a strong force, and effecting 
a junction with Norreys, made good his march from Dundalk to 
Armagh. The castle of Monaghan, which had been taken by Con 
O'Neill, was now once more in the hands of the enemy, and once more 
was beseiged by the Irish troops. Norreys, with his whole force, was in 
full march to relieve it; and O'Neill, who had hitherto avoided pitched 
battles, and contented himself with harassing the enemy by continual 

174 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

skirmishes in their march through the woods and bogs, now resolved to 
meet this redoubtable general fairly in the open field. He chose his 
ground at Clontibret, about five miles from Monaghan, where a small 
stream runs northward through a valley enclosed by low hills. On the 
left bank of this stream the Irish, in battle array, awaited the approach 
of Norreys. We have no account of the numbers on each side, but when 
the English general came up, he thought himself strong enough to force 
a passage. Twice the English infantry tried to make good their way 
over the river, and twice were beaten back, their gallant leader each 
time charging at their head, and being the last to retire. The general 
and his brother, Sir Thomas, were both wounded in these conflicts, and 
the Irish counted the victory won, when a chosen body of English horse, 
led on by Segrave, a Meathian officer, of gigantic bone and height, 
spurred fiercely across the river, and charged the cavalry of Tyrowen, 
commanded by their prince in person. Segrave singled out O'Neill, and 
the two leaders laid lance in rest for deadly combat, while the troops on 
each side lowered their weapons and held their breath, awaiting the 
shock in silence. The warriors met, and the lance of each was splintered 
on the other's corselet, but Segrave again dashed his horse against the 
chief, flung his giant frame against his enemy, and endeavored to un- 
horse him by the mere weight of his gauntletted hand. O'Neill grasped 
him in his arms, and the combatants rolled together in that fatal 
embrace to the ground. There was one moment's deadly wrestle and a 
death groan: the shortened sword of O'Neill was buried in the English- 
man's groin beneath his mail. Then from the Irish ranks arose such a 
wild shout of triumph as those hills had never echoed before — the still 
thunder-cloud burst into a tempest — those equestrian statues become 
as winged demons, and with their battle cry of Lamh-dearg-aboo, and 
their long lances poised in eastern fashion above their heads, down 
swept the chivalry of Tyrowen upon the astonished ranks of the Saxon. 
The banner of St. George wavered and went down before that furious 
charge. The English turned their bridle-reins and fled headlong over 
the stream, leaving the field covered with their dead, and, worse than 
all, leaving with the Irish that proud red-cross banner, the first of its 
disgraces in those Ulster wars. Norreys hastily retreated southwards, 
and the castle of Monaghan was yielded to the Irish. 

This was opening the campaign in a manner truly worthy of a royal 
O'Neill. The flame thus lighted spread all over the northern land. 
Success shone on the Irish banners, and as the historian informs us, "at 
the close of the year 1595, the Irish power predominated in Ulster and 

Over several of the subsequent engagements in 1596 and 1597 I must 

Great Chiefs and Uncrowned Kings 175 

pass rapidly, to reach the more important events in which the career of 
O'Neill culminated and closed. At length in the summer of 1598, he 
seems to have thrown aside all reliance upon foreign aid, and to have 
organized his countrymen for a still more resolute stand than any they 
yet had made against the national enemy. 

The Battle of the Yellow Ford 

In the month of July, 1598, Hugh O'Neill sent messengers to Phelim 
MacHugh, then chief of the O' Byrnes, that he might fall upon the 
Pale, as they were about to make employment in the north for the 
troops of Ormond, and at the same time he detached fifteen hundred 
men and sent them to assist his ally, O'More, who was then beseiging 
Porteloise, a fort of the English in Leix. Then he made a sudden swoop 
upon the castle of Portmore, which, says Moryson, "was a great eye- 
sore to him, lying upon the chiefe passage into his country," hoping 
to carry it by assault. 

Ormond now perceived that a powerful effort must be made by the 
English to hold their ground in the north, or Ulster might at once be 
abandoned to the Irish. Strong reinforcements were sent from England, 
and O'Neill's spies soon brought him intelligence of large masses of 
troops moving northward, led by Marshal Sir Henry Bagnal, and com- 
posed of the choicest forces in the queen's service. Newry was their 
J place of rendezvous; and, early in August, Bagnal found himself at the 
head of the largest and best appointed army of veteran Englishmen 
that had ever fought in Ireland. He succeeded in relieving Armagh, 
and dislodging O'Neill from his encampment at Mullaghbane, where 
the chief himself narrowly escaped being taken, and then prepared to 
advance with his whole army to the Blackwater, and raise the siege of 
Portmore. Williams and his men were by this time nearly famished 
with hunger; they had eaten all their horses, and had come to feeding 
on the herbs and grass that grew upon the walls of the fortress. And 
every morning they gazed anxiously over the southern hills, and 
strained their eyes to see the waving of a red cross flag, or the glance of 
English spears in the rising sun. 

O'Neill hastily summoned O'Donnell and MacWilliam to his aid, 

From Emerald Gems: A Chaplel of Irish Fireside Tales, Histories, Domestic and 
Legendary, compiled from Approved Sources, pp. 391-396. Thomas B. Noonan & 
Co. Boston. 1878. 

'76 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

and determined to cross the marshal's path, and give him battle before 
he reached the Blackwater. His entire force on the day of battle, in- 
cluding the Scots and the troops of Connaught and Tyrconnell, con- 
sisted of four thousand five hundred foot and six hundred horse; and 
Bagnal's army amounted to an equal number of infantry, and five 
hundred veteran horsemen, sheathed in corselets and head-pieces, to- 
gether with some field artillery, in which O'Neill was wholly wanting. 

Hugh Roe O'Donnell had snuffed the coming battle from afar, and 
on the 9th of August joined O'Neill with the clans of Connaught and 
Tyrconnell. They drew up their main body about a mile from Port- 
more, on the way to Armagh, where the plain was narrowed to a pass, 
enclosed on one side by a thick wood, and on the other by a bog. To 
arrive at that plain from Armagh, the enemy would have to penetrate 
through wooded hills, divided by winding and marshy hollows, in 
which flowed a sluggish and discolored stream from the bogs; nnd 
hence the pass was called Beal-an-atha-buidhe, "the mouth of the yel- 
low ford." Fearfasa O'Clery, a learned poet of O'Donnell's, asked the 
name of that place, and when he heard it, remembered (and pro- 
claimed aloud to the army) that St. Bercan had foretold a terrible 
battle to be fought at a yellow ford, and a glorious victory to be won 
by the ancient Irish. 

Even so, Moran, son of Maoin! and for thee, wisest poet, O'Clery, 
thou hast this day served thy country well, for, to an Irish army, 
auguries of good were more needful than a commissariat: and those 
bards' songs, like the Dorian flute of Greece, breathed a passionate 
valor that no blare of English trumpets could ever kindle. 

Bagnal's army rested that night in Armagh, and the Irish bivouacked 
in the woods, each warrior covered by his shaggy cloth, under the stars 
of a summer night; for to "an Irish rebel," says Edmund Spenser, "the 
wood is his house against all weathers, and his mantle is his couch to 
sleep in." But O'Neill, we may well believe, slept not that night away. 
The morrow was to put to proof what valor and discipline was in that 
Irish army, which he had been so long organizing and training to meet 
this very hour. Before him lay a splendid army of tried English troops, 
in full march for his ancient seat of Dungannon, and led on by his 
mortal enemy. And O'Neill would not have had that host weakened 
by the desertion of a single man, nor commanded — no, not for his 
white wand of chieftancy — by any leader but this his dearest foe. 

The tenth morning of August rose bright and serene upon the towers 
of Armagh and the silver waters of Avonmore. Before day dawned the 
English army left the city in three divisions, and at sunrise they were 

Great Chiefs and Uncrowned Kings 177 

winding through the hills and woods behind the spot where now 
stands the little church of Grange. 

The sun was glancing on the corselets and spears of their glittering 
cavalry; their banners waved proudly, and their bugles rang clear in 
the morning air, when suddenly from the thickets on both sides of their 
path, a deadly volley of musketry swept through their foremost ranks. 
O'Neill had stationed here five hundred light-armed troops to guard 
the defiles; and in the shelter of thick groves of fir-trees they had 
silently waited for the enemy. Now they poured in their shot, volley 
after volley, and killed great numbers of the English. But the first 
division, led by Bagnal in person, after some hard fighting, carried the 
pass, dislodged the marksmen from their position, and drove them 
backwards into the plain. The center division, under Cosby and wing- 
field, and the rear-guard led by Cuin and Billing, supported in flank 
by the cavalry under Brooke, Montacute, and Fleming, now pushed 
forward, speedily cleared the difficult country, and formed in the open 
ground in front of the Irish lines. "It was not quite safe," says an Irish 
chronicler (in admiration of Bagnal's disposition of his forces), "to 
attack the nest of griffins and den of lions in which were placed the 
soldiers of London." Bagnal, at the head of his first division, and aided 
by a body of cavalry, charged the Irish light-armed troops up to the 
very intrenchments, in front of which O'Neill's foresight had prepared 
some pits, covered over with wattles and grass, and many of the English 
cavalry, rushing impetuously forward, rolled headlong, both men and 
horses, into these trenches, and perished. Still the marshal's chosen 
troops, with loud cheers and shouts of "St. George for merry England!" 
resolutely attacked the intrenchment that stretched across the pass, 
battered them with cannon, and in one place succeeded, though with 
heavy loss, in forcing back into their defenders. Then first the main 
body of O'Neill's troops was brought into action, and with bagpipes 
sounding a charge, they fell upon the English, shouting their fierce 
battle-cries— "Lamhdeargh!" and "O'Donnell aboo!" O'Neill himself, 
at the head of a body of horse, pricked forward to seek out Bagnal 
amid the throng of battle; but they never met: the marshal, who had 
done his devoir that day like a good soldier, was shot through the brain 
by some unknown marksman. The division he had led was forced back 
by the furious onslaught of the Irish, and put to utter rout; and, what 
added to their confusion, a cart of gunpowder exploded amid the 
English ranks, and blew many of their men to atoms. And now the 
cavalry of Tyrconnell and Tyrowen dashed into the plain and bore 
down the remnant of Brooke's and Fleming's horse; the columns of 
Wingfield and Cosby reeled before their rushing charge; while in front, 

178 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

to the war-cry of "Bataillah-abool" the swords and axes of the heavy- 
armed gallowglasses were raging among the Saxon ranks. By this time 
the cannon were all taken; the cries of "St. George" had failed, or 
turned into death shrieks; and once more England's royal standard 
sank before the Red Hand of Tyrowen. 

Twelve thousand gold pieces, thirty-four standards, and all the artil- 
lery of the vanquished army, were taken. Nearly three thousand dead 
were left by the English on the field. The splendid army of the Pale 
was in fact annihilated. 

Beal-an-atha-buie, or, as some of the English chronicles call it, Black- 
water, may be classed at one of the great battles of the Irish nation; 
perhaps the greatest fought in the course of the war against English 
invasion. Other victories as brilliant and complete may be found re- 
corded in our annals; many defeats of English armies as utter and dis- 
astrous; but most of these were, in a military point of view, not to be 
ranked for a moment with the "Yellow Ford." Very nearly all of them 
were defile surprises, conducted on the simplest principles of warfare 
common to struggles in a mountainous country. But Beal-an-atha-buie 
was a deliberate engagement, a formidable pitched battle between the 
largest and the best armies which England and Ireland respectively 
were able to send forth, and was fought out on principles of military 
science, in which both O'Neill and Bagnal were proficient. It was a 
fair stand-up fight between the picked troops and chosen generals of 
the two nations; and it must be told of the vanquished on that day, 
that, though defeated, they were not dishonored. The Irish annals and 
chants, one and all, do justice to the daring bravery and unflinching 
endurance displayed by Bagnal's army on the disastrous battlefield of 

The fame of this great victory filled the land. Not in Ireland alone 
did it create a sensation. The English historians tell us that for months 
nothing was talked of at court or elsewhere throughout England, but 
O'Neill and the great battle on the Blackwater, which had resulted so 
disastrously for "her Highness." Moryson himself informs us that "the 
general voyce was of Tyrone amongst the English after the defeat of 
Blackwater, as of Hannibal amongst the Romans after the defeat at 
Cannae." The event got noised abroad, too; and in all the courts of 
Europe Hugh of Tyrone became celebrated as a military commander 
and as a patriot leader. 

Great Ghiefs and Uncrowned Kings 179 

O'Neill and His National Confederacy Against Essex 

So irresistible was the inspiration of Hugh's victories in the north, 
that even the occupied, conquered, broken, divided, and desolated 
south began to take heart and look upward. Messengers were des- 
patched to Hugh entreating him to send some duly authorised lieu- 
tenants to raise the standard of Church and Country in Munster, and 
take charge of the cause there. He complied by detaching Richard 
Tyrrell, of Fertullah, and Owen, son of Ruari O'Moore, at the head 
of a chosen band, to unfurl the national flag in the southern provinces. 
They were enthusiastically received. The Catholic Anglo-Norman lords 
and the native chiefs entered into the movement and rose to arms on 
all sides. The newly-planted "settlers," or "undertakers" as they were 
styled — (English adventurers amongst whom had been parcelled out 
the lands of several southern Catholic families, lawlessly seized on the 
ending of the Desmond rebellion) — fled pell mell, abandoning the 
stolen castles and lands to their rightful owners, and only too happy 
to escape with life. The Lord President had to draw in every outpost, 
and abandon all Munster, except the garrison towns of Cork and 
Kilmallock, within which, cooped up like prisoners, he and his dimin- 
ished troops were glad to find even momentary shelter. By the begin- 
ning of 1599. "no English force was able to keep the field throughout 
all Ireland." O'Neill's authority was paramount— was loyally recog- 
nized and obeyed everywhere outside two or three garrison towns. He 
exercised the prerogatives of royalty; issued commissions, conferred 
offices, honours, and titles; removed or deposed lords and chiefs actively 
or passively disloyal to the national authority, and appointed others in 
their stead. And all was done so wisely, so impartially, so patriotically 
—with such scrupulous and fixed regard for the one great object, and 
no other— namely, the common cause of national independence and 
freedom— that even men chronically disposed to suspect family or clan 
selfishness in every act gave their full confidence to him as to a leader 
who had completely sunk the clan chief in the national leader. In fine, 
since the days of Brian the First, no native sovereign of equal capacity 

singularly qualified as a soldier and as a statesman — had been known 

in Ireland. He omitted no means of strengthening the league. He re- 
newed his intercourse with Spain; planted permanent bodies of troops 

From The Story of Ireland, by A. M . Sullivan, pp. 272-278. M. H. Gill & Son, Ltd. 
Dublin. 1905. 

180 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

on the Foyle, Erne, and Black water; engaged the services of some addi- 
tional Scots from the Western Isles; improved the discipline of his own 
troops, and on every side made preparations to renew the conflict with 
his powerful enemy. For he well knew that Elizabeth was not the 
monarch to quit her deadly grip of this fair island without a more 
terrible struggle than had yet been endured. 

The struggle was soon inaugurated. England— at that time one of 
the strongest nations in Europe, and a match for the best among them 
by land and sea, ruled over by one of the ablest, the boldest, and most 
crafty sovereigns that had ever sat upon her throne, and served by 
statesmen, soldiers, philosophers, and writers, whose names are famous 
in history— was now about to put forth all her power in a combined 
naval and military armament against the almost reconstituted, but as 
yet all too fragile, Irish nation. Such an effort, under all the circum- 
stances, could scarcely result otherwise than as it eventually did; for 
there are, after all, odds against which no human effort can avail and 
for which no human valour can compensate. It was England's good 
fortune on this occasion, as on others previously and subsequently, that 
the Irish nation challenged her when she was at peace with all the 
world — when her hands were free and her resources undivided. Equally 
fortunate was she at all times, on the other hand, in the complete 
tranquillity of the Irish when desperate emergencies put her on her 
own defence, and left no resources to spare for a campaign in Ireland, 
had she been challenged then. What we have to contemplate in the 
closing scenes of O'Neill's glorious career is the heroism of Thermopy- 
lae, not the success of Salamis or Plataea. 

Elizabeth's favourite, Essex, was despatched to Ireland with twenty 
thousand men at his back; an army not only the largest England had 
put into the field for centuries, but in equipment, in drill, and in 
armament, the most complete ever assembled under her standard. 
Against this the Irish nowhere had ten thousand men concentrated 
in a regular army or movable corps. In equipment and in armament 
they were sadly deficient, while of sieging material they were altogether 
destitute. Nevertheless, we are told "O'Neill and his confederates were 
not dismayed by the arrival of this great army and its magnificent 
leader." And had the question between the two nations depended 
solely upon such issues as armies settle, and superior skill and prowess 
control, neither O'Neill nor his confederates would have erred in the 
strong faith, the high hope, the exultant self-reliance that now ani- 
mated them. The campaign of 1599 — the disastrous failure of the 
courtly Essex and his magnificent army — must be told in a few lines. 
O'Neill completely outgeneraled and overawed or overreached the 

Great Chiefs and Uncrowned Kings 181 

haughty deputy. In more than one fatal engagement his splendid force 
was routed by the Irish, until, notwithstanding a constant stream of 
reinforcements from England, it had wasted away, and was no longer 
formidable in O'Neill's eyes. In vain the queen wrote letter after letter 
endeavouring to sting her quondam favourite into "something nota- 
ble"; that is, a victory over O'Neill. Nothing could induce Essex to face 
the famous hero of Clontibret and the Yellow Ford, unless, indeed, in 
peaceful parley. At length having been taunted into a movement north- 
ward, he proceeded thither reluctantly and slowly. "On the high 
ground north of the Lagan, he found the host of O'Neill encamped, 
and received a courteous message from their leader, soliciting a per- 
sonal interview. At an appointed hour the two commanders rode down 
to the opposite bands of the river, wholly unattended, the advanced 
guards of each looking curiously on the uplands." 

O'Neill, ever the flower of courtesy, spurred his horse into the stream 
up to the saddlegirths. "First they had a private conference, in which 
Lord Essex, won by the chivalrous bearing and kindly address of the 
chief, became, say the English historians, too confidential with an 
enemy of his sovereign, spoke without reserve of his daring hope, 
and most private thoughts of ambition, until O'Neill had sufficiently 
read his secret soul, fathomed his poor capacity, and understood the 
full meanness of his shallow treason. Then Cormac O'Neill and five 
other Irish leaders were summoned on the one side, on the other Lord 
Southampton and an equal number of English officers, and a solemn 
parley was opened in due form." O'Neill offered terms: "first, complete 
liberty of conscience; second, indemnity for his allies in all the four 
provinces; third, the principal officers of state, the judges, and one-half 
the army to be henceforth Irish by birth." Essex considered these very 
far from extravagant demands from a man now virtually master in the 
island. He declared as much to O'Neill, and concluded a truce pending 
reply from London. Elizabeth saw in fury how completely O'Neill had 
dominated her favourite. She wrote him a frantic letter full of scornful 
taunt and upbraiding. Essex flung up all his duties in Ireland without 
leave, and hurried to London. 

The year 1600 was employed by O'Neill in a general circuit of the 
kingdom, for the more complete establishment of the national league 
and the better organization of the national resources. "He marched 
through the center of the island at the head of his troops to the south," 
says his biographer, "a kind of royal progress, which he thought fit to 
call a pilgrimage to Holy Cross. He held princely state there, concerted 
measures with the southern lords, and distributed a manifesto announc- 
ing himself as the accredited Defender of the Faith." "In the beginning 

I8 2 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

of March," says another authority, "the Catholic army halted at Innis- 
carra, upon the river Lee, about five miles west of Cork. Here O'Neill 
remained three weeks in camp consolidating the Catholic party in 
South Munster. During that time he was visited by the chiefs of the 
ancient Eugenian clans— O'Donohoe, O'Donovan, and O'Mahoney. 
Thither also came two of the most remarkable men of the southern 
province: Florence McCarthy, lord of Ourberry, and Donald O'Sulli- 
van, lord of Bearhaven. McCarthy, "like Saul, higher by the head and 
shoulders than any of his house," had brain in proportion to his brawn; 
O'Sullivan, as was afterwards shown, was possessed of military virtues 
of a high order. Florence was inaugurated with O'Neill's sanction as 
McCarthy More, and although the rival house of Muskerry fiercely 
resisted his claim to superiority at first, a wiser choice could not have 
been made had the times tended to confirm it. 

While at Inniscarra, O'Neill lost in single combat one of his most 
accomplished officers, the chief of Fermanagh. Maguire, accompanied 
only by a priest and two horsemen, was making observations nearer to 
the city than the camp, when Sir Warham St. Leger, marshal of 
Munster, headed out of Cork with a company of soldiers, probably on 
a similar mission. Both were in advance of their attendants when they 
came unexpectedly face to face. Both were famous as horsemen and for 
the use of their weapons, and neither would retrace his steps. The Irish 
chief, poising his spear, dashed forward against his opponent, but re- 
ceived a pistol shot which proved mortal the same day. He, however, 
had strength enough left to drive his spear through the neck of St. 
Leger, and to effect his escape from the English cavalry. St. Leger was 
carried back to Cork where he expired. Maguire, on reaching the camp 
had barely time left to make his last confession when he breathed his 
last. This untoward event, the necessity of preventing possible dissen- 
sions in Fermanagh, and still more the menacing movements of the 
new deputy, lately sworn in at Dublin, obliged O'Neill to return home 
earlier than he intended. 

The Battle of the Curlew Mountains 

In treating of the fall of Queen Elizabeth's favorite, Robert, Earl 
of Essex, historians have not at all recognized his very bad record as 
Chief Governor of Ireland. 

By Standiih 0"Grady, in The Gael, July, 1903, pp. 201-214. New York. 

Great Chiefs and Uncrowned Kings 183 

They may say he did nothing, but in fact he did a great deal less, 
for he was beaten by the insurgent lords at many points. 

As he marched through the Queen's country, young O'More, lord of 
that region, routed his rear guard and plundered his baggage in the 
Pass of Plumes. At Askeaton, County Limerick, he was beaten by the 
Geraldines and driven out of West Munster. The sons of Feagh Mac- 
Hugh defeated his cavalry in one battle and his infantry in another. 
Finally, his lieutenant, Sir Conyers Clifford, President of Connacht, 
was first beaten by Red Hugh at Ballyshannon and afterwards beaten 
disastrously in the Curlew Mountains. 

With such an Irish record it is not surprising that on his return 
to England his reception should have been so cold. I propose here to 
give a sketch of this latter battle, partly to enable the reader to form 
some idea of the curiously embroiled and intertangled relations of the 
chieftainry with each other and with the state, and partly with the 
purpose of illustrating the war-methods of the sixteenth century as 
practiced in Ireland. 

When the "Nine Years' War" broke out, Sir Richard Bingham was 
master of all Connacht. Presently he came into collision with Red 
Hugh, and Red Hugh beat him. Red Hugh was only a boy, yet he 
beat the veteran and shook most of Connacht loose from his control. 

When Essex came into Ireland, Bingham was hopelessly beaten and 
could hardly venture to show himself outside the gates of Athlone. 
The Burkes of Clanricarde and the O'Briens of Thomond, two zealous 
Royalist clans, alone kept the Queen's flag flying in the open, and Red 
Hugh was destroying them. Then the Queen recalled Bingham in dis- 
grace. He was brought to London as a state prisoner pursued by an 
infinity of complaints urged against him by chieftains of the West, 
and Sir Conyers Clifford appointed President of Connacht simultane- 
ously with the appointment of Earl of Essex as Lord Lieutenant of 
that realm. 

Clifford seems to have been a man of signal nobility of character. 
"The Four Masters" declare that "there did not come of English blood 
into Ireland in the latter times a more worthy person." His reputation 
preceded him, and on his arrival a considerable proportion of the 
western lords who had been previously in rebellion and allies of Red 
Hugh waited upon him and tended him their allegiance. 

So without striking a blow, Clifford recovered immediately the 
greater portion of the province. Then at the head of a considerable 
army he marched northwards for the invasion of Tyrconnel but did 
not succeed. Red Hugh beat him at Ballyshannon, drove him back 
and resumed his operations in Connacht. 

184 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

The County of Sligo was one of the divisions of Connacht in which 
the change produced by the coming of Clifford was not felt. It was 
still strongly held by Red Hugh's lieutenants. In 1598 Clifford flung 
into that county a young royalist chieftain and a body of horse with 
the object of exciting there a rebellion of Red Hugh's feudatories. A 
cavalry battle ensued in which the Royalists were overthrown by Red 
Hugh's horse, and the leader of this forlorn hope, in fact the O'Conor 
Shgo, was driven within the fortress of Collooney and there besieeed 
by Red Hugh. 6 

Partly to relieve him, partly to deliver another great stroke at Red 
Hugh, Clifford mustered his forces at Athlone. When all was in readi- 
ness Clifford rose thence and marched to Boyle, a strong town in the 
north of Roscommon, close to the frontiers of Sligo. 

Between Roscommon and Sligo lay the Curlew Mountains, on the 
north side of which all the country was held by Red Hugh, except 
Collooney, which he was blockading. Clifford's force numbered 2,500 
infantry and 300 horse. It consisted of Connacht-Irish, Meath-Irish, 
and regulars. The regulars were, for the most part, Irish, too, but 
officered to some extent by English gentlemen. The Connacht and 
Meath contingents represented the military quotas which those prov- 
inces were bound to furnish for war. 

On demand under certain conditions, all the nobles and landowners 
were bound to "rise out," as the phrase ran, at the head of a fixed 
body of foot and horse, well equipped, and serve at their own expense 
for forty days. To our notions Clifford's army on this occasion was 
absurdly small. But in the sixteenth century such a force was not 
small, but, on the contrary, a great host. 

The State was seldom able to put into the field for active service an 
army of more than 4,000 men nor the insurgent chiefs one of greater 
dimensions. When at Kinsale the contending powers severally brought 
all their forces to a head, out of the whole of Ireland there were but 
some six or seven thousand effective men on each side. 

At the head of this force, Clifford, on the 13th of August, marched 
through the gates of Boyle in the midst of mild weather and heavy 
pouring rain. The army had come that day from the town of Ros- 
common and entered Boyle wet and weary, thinking only of supper, 
rest, and sleep. Clifford took up his quarters in the monastery there. 
The rest of his army was billeted throughout the town. 

Monastery and town must have been of considerable capacity, for I 
find a little later a garrison of 1,500 men posted there. Clifford's army, 
I say, expected to sleep comfortably in Boyle that night, but they did 
not. Shortly after their arrival the army was on march again, moving 

Great Chiefs and Uncrowned Kings 185 

silently through darkness and rain towards the Curlew Mountains. 
Why, we shall see presently. 

When Red Hugh heard of this invasion he lay, with cavalry only, 
blockading the castle of Collooney. Within that castle was the O'Conor 
Sligo. Hugh was very anxious to lay his hands upon O'Conor Sligo, 
who had, for a long time, given him a great deal of trouble. Hearing 
the tidings, Hugh wrote to Tyrone to come and help; Tyrone came by 
forced marches, but was unable to help. He came too late. 

Hugh also sent the usual war-summons to all his feudatories and 
captains, and all these being near came to him at once. These were 
O'Dogherty, the three M'Sweeny's, O'Boyle, O'Byrne, M'Clancy, 
O'Gallagher, and others. His army when assembled consisted of about 
2,500 men, horse and foot. We see here a proof of Red Hugh's military 
power. On the sudden, he was able to draw together a force as great 
as that of the Queen's President of Connacht. Nor was it in any respect 
less efficient. Hugh now rose from Collooney, but left behind him 200 
horse to continue the blockade. 

To the command of this force, he appointed his cousin, Nial Garv, 
i.e., Nial the Rough. I notice him particularly, for it was this rough 
cousin whose defection a little afterwards broke Red Hugh's brilliant 
career. Nial Garv rebelled against Red Hugh, became the "Queen's" 
O'Donnell, and led a great Queen's party in the northwest. He was a 
violent, headstrong, implacable young man, and most furious both in 
speech and demeanor. 

As Hugh Roe with the bulk of his army marches southwards from 
Collooney, imagine Nial Garv with his 200 horsemen moving round 
that fortress through the trees and Nial's fierce and strident voice up- 
lifted at times ringing out words of menace and command. That young 
man, afterwards the Queen's O'Donnell, was certainly the roughest, 
ruggedest, and most bull-headed and bull-hearted creature to be found 
anywhere at this time. 

Red Huch Blocks the Curlews 

Hugh Roe at the head of the rest of his army marched straight for- 
ward to the Curlews, going with his accustomed velocity, and en- 
camped on the northern slopes of the same. From Boyle two roads 
led through the mountains into Sligo. One of these was circuitous, 
rugged, and easily defended. It was unlikely that Clifford would try 
to force the Curlews by this road, nevertheless Hugh blocked it with 
300 picked men, pikes and guns, no cavalry. He himself leading the 

186 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

bulk of his forces, and a considerable body of churls bearing spades 
and axes advanced from his camp along the direct road till he came 
to the blackened ruins of a castle which once commanded a gorge on 
the sudden slope of the mountains. 

This castle had been erected by Bingham both for the defense of the 
Pass and as a fetter on the warlike MacDermot clan who then occu- 
pied this region. Shortly after the breaking out of the war it had been 
stormed and burnt by the chief of this clan, MacDermot of the Cur- 
lews, a brave man, not at all so rude and wild as one might imagine, 
as the reader will discover later on. At this point Red Hugh determined 
to fight with Clifford, and to that end ordered the erection there of a 
barricade with double flanks. This was early on the morning of the 
13th, and at the time Clifford was marching out of Roscommon along 
the road to Boyle. The morning was bright and fine, but the atmos- 
phere was suspiciously transparent. From the mouth of the gorge, 
through a small opening in the trees, the walls, towers, and turrets of 
Boyle could be seen distinctly, white and glistening in the sunlight. 
Red Hugh, who was on horseback, and surrounded by his chiefs and 
principal officers, stood still for a while, and regarded it intently. 

This young man, now for many years the terror of all Royalists in 
the West, was only twenty-six years of age, and looked even younger 
than he was, so clear and fresh was his complexion, so vivid his coun- 
tenance, so alert and rapid was he in all his movements. Yet he was no 
boy, but already a skillful commander in the field, and a strong and 
resolute administrator. Then he bade his men fall to, and the adjoin- 
ing woods rang with the noise of axes, and presently sounded with the 
crash of falling timber. Meanwhile the gorge was alive with spadesmen 
laboring diligently under the direction of the young chiefs engineers, 
and gradually the barricade began to assume form. 

Once for all, let me warn the reader against the ignorant notion 
that the armies of the insurgent lords were the rude crowds of what 
are vaguely known as kerne. They were armies in the proper sense of 
the word, armed, directed, and handled according to the best military 
methods in vogue at the time. 

Shortly after noon, the sky became overcast, and at two o'clock the 
rain fell and continued to fall. At four there was the sound of the 
firing of heavy ordnance from the direction of Boyle; it was the garri- 
son of Boyle saluting the army of the President. The flashes were quite 
visible. Red Hugh believed that Clifford, after a short halt, would roll 
forward again, and force the passage of the Curlews. The probability 
also was that he would advance by the direct road. 

Should he prefer the more circuitous route, Hugh believed that the 

Great Chiefs and Uncrowned Kings 187 

three hundred planted there would retard his advance sufficiently to 
enable himself to transfer his army by the nearest cross-country ways, 
and fight Clifford upon that road at a point which he had already 
settled in his mind. Clifford, in fact, was not aware that Red Hugh 
was in this neighborhood at all; for Hugh had come from Collooney 
with extraordinary celerity, Clifford imagined that he had only to do 
with MacDermot of the Curlews, Hugh's marcher-lord in this region. 

Behind the barricade Hugh's people stood under arms, the gunmen 
forward with matches already lit, behind them the battle and on the 
wings kerne, i.e., light foot, armed only with swords and javelins. His 
few horsemen were posted under shelter of a wood on the right of 
the barricade. Presently the whole of Clifford's army reached Boyle, 
and instead of advancing, as Red Hugh firmly expected, entered Boyle, 
presumably for a short rest and for refreshment. Now, however, hour 
succeeded hour, and there was no sign of the emergence of Clifford's 
people from Boyle. On the contrary, as night fell, Hugh's scouts came 
in with the intelligence that all the bugle notes heard in the town 
indicated that the Royalist army would pass the night there. 

The rain now began to fall in torrents, and the wind rose to a 
storm howling in the forest, and whistling round the crags of the 
mountainsides. It grew dark two hours before darkness was due. Red 
Hugh now determined to lead his army back to camp, leaving a force 
of gunmen to hold the barricade as well as they could in the event 
of a night attack. Such an attack might possibly be delivered, but was 
he to keep his army here all night under arms waiting for an assault 
which might never come? In that event his tired men would have to 
contend in the morning with Clifford's well-rested and refreshed 
forces. . . . Hugh bade the officer in charge of the barricade send a 
swift mounted messenger to him at the first sign of the approach of 
Clifford's men, bade the bugles sound retreat, and rode away with his 
army, winding darkling, through the wild Curlews. 

The Queen's M'Sweeny 

Red Hugh did not succeed in bringing all his soldiers back to camp. 
Shortly after that sounding of the trumpets, there emerged, from the 
woods on the right side of the barricade, three men wearing brazen 
morions, two with guns on their shoulders, who stepped down the 
slope quickly, going in the direction of Boyle. The man who had no 
gun was a gentleman of the M'Sweenys. 

His name is unknown, but his purpose is well known. He was about 
to change sides and ally himself with the cause of the Queen. He 

188 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

believed tKat his change of ideas would be peculiarly welcome to the 
Queen's people just now, because he brought with him important 
intelligence. He could tell them that the narrow gorge at the head of 
Curlew Pass was undefended, that Hugh Roe, trusting to the wetness 
and blackness of the night, had marched back to camp, and that if 
they wished to do a good stroke upon him, now was the time. He could 
have access to the English commander, for his kinsman, Sir Miler 
M 'Sweeny, was with him in Boyle. 

No one can study the history of Elizabethan Ireland without being 
amazed and disgusted at the chopping* and changings which marked 
the careers of nearly all the chieftains. Granuaile's son fought first for 
Hugh Roe and then for the Queen, and changed sides twice after that. 
His rival, the land Burke, now with Hugh Roe, was once a pillar of the 
Queen's cause in Mayo. 

Nial Garv, now in rebellion, will one day be a pillar of the Queen's 
cause in the northwest, and before the end of the war will be in 
rebellion again. O'Conor Sligo, now a Queen's man blockaded in Col- 
looney, will presently be Red Hugh's man, and in a year or two the 
Queen's man again, so that Red Hugh will have to seize and imprison 
him and give his lordship to his brother. But in each case there is an 
explanation, and if one looks closely into the explanation, one does 
not find the apparent treacheries so very surprising. 

So these three men stepped from the slopes of the Curlews, crossed 
the wet plain, presented themselves to the sentinels at Boyle, and were 
led into Sir Miler's presence. To him they explained the situation. 
By him it was also explained to Sir Conyers and his officers, with the 
result that in a short time the bugles rang out, and all Boyle sounded 
with the noise of military preparation. In spite of darkness and teem- 
ing rain, Clifford's army got on march again, and rolled through the 
night towards the pass in the Curlew Mountains, which, as we know, 
was now practically undefended. 

Brian Ocue of the Battle-Axes 

When Hugh Roe arrived at his camp he found himself reinforced 
by the arrival of the Lord of Leitrim, the O'Rourke, Brian Ogue of 
the Battle-Axes. It was he whose milch cows Bingham had seized upon 
the lawn at Dromahaire. It was he who, by exacting vengeance on the 
Binghams for that insult, had unintentionally kindled all the north 
into rebellion, and so precipitated the Nine Years' War. He arrived in 

Great Chiefs and Uncrowned Kings 189 

camp leading a little army of horse and foot, and amongst the foot 160 
big gallow-glasses clad in shirts of glittering chainmail, and carrying 
long battle-axes. As these gallow-glasses played a great part in the 
Battle of the Curlew Mountains, the reader must not forget them. 

But now arrived visitors of a different sort. Horsemen galloped up 
to the great central tent, and springing swiftly from the saddle, an- 
nounced that the enemy was on the march, and at their ease, crossing 
or about to cross the strewn timber. The war would not now be fought 
where the advantage was with the northerns, but on this side of the 
selected point and on even terms. 

A swift shadow crossed the face of the young prince at these ill tid- 
ings. Had he known that this blow came from his own revolted vassal. 
Sir Miler, it would probably have been deeper. But quickly recovering 
himself, he invented new plans and sent out new orders. "Breakfast at 
once for the whole army," was the first of these; surely a good begin- 
ning for a day which promised to be one of long and continued battle. 
Breakfast, too, was doubly necessary this morning, for his devout war- 
riors were hollow-bellied enough after yesterday's severe abstinence 

"Soldiers, through the help of the Holy Virgin, Mother of God, we 
have, ere this, at all times conquered our heretic foe. Today we will 
annihilate him. In her name yesterday we fasted. Today we celebrate 
her feast. So then in the Virgin's name, let us bravely fight and con- 
quer her enemies." 

Shouts and clash of arms proved that he had touched the right 
chord in the hearts of these simple warriors, for whom the Middle 
Ages had by no means passed away, but who were still as devout, and 
in the old way, as their forefathers of the days of the Crusaders. 

With banners waving, war-pipes screaming, MacDermot and his 600 
men marched straight into the mountains. Rain still fell, but not 
heavily. After him, at a slower pace, followed Brian Ogue and his 
gallow-glasses, over whom waved the O'Rourke banner, showing the 
lions of the house of Breffney surmounted by a mailed hand grasping 
a dagger. 

As MacDermot and Brian Ogue disappeared, folded away and hid- 
den in the hollows of the hills, Red Hugh and his host also advanced 
till they reached a point at which Clifford's progress might best be 
obstructed. The point selected by Red Hugh for fighting the Battle of 
the Curlew Mountains was one where cavalry would not operate, and 
where his flanks could not be turned. He sent his war-horses to the 


A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

rear and dismounted his lancers, for he was resolved to put his whole 
strength into the contest at this selected point. 

Here he was rejoined by the 300 whom he had previously planted as 
a guard upon that unused and circuitous road, and where their pres- 
ence was no longer necessary. Having made all his dispositions, he and 
his chief officers rode forward to the track of MacDermot and Brian 
Ogiie, to see how matters fared in the hills, whence probably sounds 
of firing already came. 

Red Hugh expected that he would soon be joined by his skirmishers, 
falling back before Clifford's advance. 

Clifford Enters the Curlews 

To return to Clifford. The three deserting M'Sweenys arriving at 
Boyle informed their dear lord, Sir Miler, that the Curlews were un- 
defended, Hugh Roe having marched back to camp. Sir Miler brought 
the news to Clifford. Clifford sent out the necessary orders. . . . The 
tired soldiers had to buckle on their war gear again and face once 
more the raging elements. 

Soon the whole army, horse, foot, and carriages were again upon 
the road. The wall and towers of monastery Boyle were left behind 
and Clifford's host rolled along the great road leading into Ulster 
across the Curlews, men and horses plodding wearily forward through 
the miry ways and driving rain. Clifford, by Sir Miler's advice, avoided 
the unfrequented way which Red Hugh had beset with 300 men. At 
the foot of the Curlews he bade Markham halt with the horse in a 
green pasture. Day now dawned, not rosy-fingered, but wet exceedingly. 

It was about this time that at the other side of the Curlew mountains 
the conviction arose in a certain redhead there that Clifford would not 
march that day. The army now began to ascend the Curlews in three 
divisions. The vanguard was commanded by Sir Alexander Ratcliffe, 
son of the Earl of Sussex, the battle, i.e., the strong central division, by 
Clifford himself. The rear-guard was brought up under Sir Arthur 
Savage, captain of a Norman-Irish sept of the County of Down. 

About a quarter of a mile from the mouth of the passage, Ratcliffe 
came upon "a barricado with double flanks," in fact, the woody ob- 
struction at which Red Hugh had intended to dispute the passage of 
the Curlews. There were a few sentries there who discharged their 
muskets and fled. The place was practically undefended. 

Opening a passage through the barricado, Sir Conyers placed guards 
upon the same with the instructions that they were not to stir until 
they should hear from him again, which they never did. On the right 

Great Chiefs and Uncrowned Kings 191 

flank of their half-ript barricado he put Lieutenant Rogers and his 
company, on the left Ralph Constable, an officer held in high and 
deserved honor "for his virtue." 

Not far from Constable and on the same flank he posted Captain 
Walter Flood and Captain Windsor. Each of these captains had forty 
men. There were 160 in all, Ralph Constable being chief in command. 
Should the army suffer a disaster in the mountains, the Governor 
believed that Constable would hold the half-barricaded gap and check 
the onrush of the pursuers. He was a prudent general and looked be- 
hind as well as before. 

Having made these sensible arrangements, Clifford led his army 
into the heart of the Curlews. The Curlews were not so much moun- 
tains as great bleak highlands of a boggy character like nearly all Irish 
highlands and hills, a fact which accounts for the softness and rounded 
beauty of our mountain scenery. Presently, still ascending, the army 
came upon a great expanse of brown moorland looked down on by 
distant hills. A grey road traversed the bog and at the further end 
stopped short suddenly in a green wood. The wood blocked the view 
northwards. Clifford could not tell what was going on at the other 
side of that wood. 

The road was not straight but swerved considerably, resembling a 
well-bent bow. It was bordered by some ground, moderately firm, 
studded with yellow furze, whence its name Bohar-buidhe or the Yel- 
low Road. As string to this bent bow there ran straight across the bog 
a sort of causeway, not exactly a way, but more of the nature of firm 
ground, rough and obstructed. Its course was traceable by the eye, for 
it was greener than the surrounding bog. This causeway, leaving the 
regular road at a certain point, fell in again with the road well on this 
side of the wood; let the reader remember this rough causeway inter- 
secting the bend of the road. 

The army went by the road advancing as before in three separate 
divisions. Sir Alexander Ratcliffe was in the van, Clifford in the battle. 
Sir Arthur Savage leading the rear column. Carts and horses, mules 
and garrans bearing panniers filled the spaces between the columns. 
Here in fact went the baggage, ammunition, and provisions. 

Ratcliffe Clears the Boiiar-Buidhf. Wood 

So over the vast brown bog the Royalist army, minus the cavalry, 
wound its way slowly towards the wood. Below them lay Constable and 
his 160 guarding the barricado. Below these, again, Clifford's cavalry 
stood their ease at the foot of the hills southwards. The passage of the 

192 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

Curlews was not yet achieved nor a point reached at which horse 
could be anything but a danger and encumbrance. 

It was now morning. The pouring rain of the previous night gradu- 
ally ceased, the sky cleared and the sun rose. The peasantry who from 
the hills watched the army saw the glittering of armor and weapons 
with eyes friendly or hostile as the Queen's host slowly threaded the 
brown bog curving round towards the wood where all believed that the 
Battle of the Curlew Mountains would now be lost or won. 

Flocks of crying curlews, scared by the sound and glitter, rose here 
and there, settling down at greater distances. All eyes were now fixed 
on the wood. It was obviously the next point and Sir Conyers thought 
the last point at which the passage of the Curlews could be disputed 
with any advantage to the northerns. 

All believed that this wood was filled with Red Hugh's warriors, and 
that the battle would be fought amid its depths. It was August 14th, 
and here as elsewhere autumn was laying its fiery finger on the leaves, 
upon the mountain ash chiefly, a tree very common in primeval Irish 
woods — also the first which yields itself to autumnal painting. 

Nor were Clifford's conjectures quite wrong, though too far from 
quite right. As Ratcliffe approached the wood, the still quiet groves 
of it became suddenly alive. From some half thousand matchlocks scat- 
tered along its edge, each gunman there posted well behind a protect- 
ing tree, tongues of fire flashed out through the leaves and scrub, 
bullets of lead and iron began to rain into Ratcliffe, and smoke con- 
cealed all greenery. Hoarse voices in Gaelic shouted words of command, 
for here was the MacDermot, with Red Hugh's 600 arquebus men, 
archers, and musketeers. The Battle of the Curlew Mountains had 

Forthwith Ratcliffe formed his column for attack, light troops for- 
ward, gal low-glasses behind, and plunged into the smoke regardless of 
the fast-flashing tongues and the raining bullets. This firing suddenly 
ceased. If there was any fighting it was mostly unseen and hand-to-hand 
amid the trees. I believe there was not much. As bold Ratcliffe and his 
men with a shout plunged into and through the wood, firing as they 
went, MacDermot and his men began to pour out at the other side. 

Although the wood might have been successfully maintained had 
Red Hugh concentrated all his forces there in time, it was not main- 
tainable by such strength as MacDermot had at his command. I may 
mention here casually that Boyle had been the capital of the Mac- 

Great Chiefs and Uncrowned Kings 193 

Dermot nation till fierce Bingham took it from them, and, the Queen 
being agreeable, conferred it upon himself, and that the Boyle monas- 
tery was a foundation of the same family. So MacDermot had in this 
war something to fight for beyond glory. 

MacDermot, however, could not hold the wood. He fell back, he 
and his gunmen, retreating upon Brian Ogue, who also with his gallow- 
glasses fell back northwards, and nearer to Red Hugh's camp, far 
enough, at least, not to subject themselves to any very deadly fire on 
the part of Ratcliffe's men, who now emerged, cheering, on the north- 
ern boulders of the same, probably sending thence a volley by way of 
military farewell into MacDermot's rear. 

Ratcliffe had cleared out the Bohar-buidhe wood in fine style, open- 
ing up, so far, the passage of the Curlews. From the wood, which was 
half a mile in depth, the road still running northwards and Colloney- 
wards, now traversed another brown bog and, along this moving off 
leisurely and in good order, Ratcliffe saw MacDermot and the expelled 
gunmen retreating in the wake of Brian Ogue of the Battle-Axes with 
his small but formidable-looking cohort of mailed gallow-glasses trail- 
ing their long battle-axes. 

Beaten so far were the northerns, but obviously not beaten to flight. 
Genial Homer would have pictured MacDermot and Brian Ogue as 
two raw-devouring lions beaten off from the cattle-fold, but retreating 
slowly, looking around and askance, not being at all terrified in their 
minds. . . . 

As soon as Clifford learned that Red Hugh's people had been driven 
out of the wood and that the way was cleared, he despatched a messen- 
ger with orders to Markham . . . and the Queen's horse began to get 
under way. Meantime the invading army was traversing the dangerous 
Bohar-buidhe wood. 

Savage and the rear-guard were probably still among the trees when 
the sound of fresh firing in front proved that Ratcliffe and the van 
were already engaged with the enemy, opening a mile or two more 
of the wild road through the Curlews. The army as it emerged from 
the wood observed the same order of advance, Ratcliffe with his gun- 
men and light troops still in the van. 

The road now traversed another bog, bare, too, save that there was 
on the eastern side, that to Ratcliffe's right, another wood, lying rather 
further than a calyver's shot from the road. Upon this road Mac- 
Dermot's men were still in view and also, as Ratcliffe soon perceived, 
deploying for fight, "not at all terrified in their minds." 

19 * A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

The left wing of MacDermot's little army abutted on and was pro- 
tected by the wood. His right leaned upon the hillside, for the road at 
this point skirted the mountain. . . . 

Ratclifle also drew out his men and disposed them in fighting order. 
There was no opportunity for maneuvering and nice feats of general- 
ship. It was a fair and even duel between the gunmen of both armies. 

MacDermot's men had the advantage of the ground, for they were 
more inured to fighting in such an element than regular troops. Rat- 
cliffe's, on the other hand, were superior in numbers, and furnished 
probably with a better style of weapon. Moreover, MacDermot's 600 
were not all gunmen. With them were interspersed bowmen, Scots for 
the most part, Red Hugh's maternal kindred, and javelin-men who 
hurled their spears exactly like the warriors of the I/iad, casting with 
great force and accuracy to an extraordinary distance. 

Remember, too, that Elizabethan firearms were very different to- 
wards ours. Good armor could resist the impact of their bullets and 
their range was very short. So javelin-men, Homeric spear-casters 
trained from childhood to the practice of the art, were of considerable 
service when the opposing ranks came into some relative nearness. 

Behind Ratcliffe's fast deploying men the rest of the Royalist army 
stood "refused," waiting till he should disperse this obstruction and 
clear the way once more. Immediately behind him was the first division 
of the convoy, then the main battle under the President, then the 
second convoy, after which Savage and the rear guard still struggling 
through the Bohar-buidhe wood. 

The Ficht on the Bog Side 

Now began in right earnest the conflict which is called the Battle of 
the Curlew Mountains. Many a battle had been fought upon this fa- 
mous road as far back as the bright semi-fabulous epic of Queen Maeve, 
and far beyond. By this road Ulster invaded Connacht, and Connacht, 
Ulster. Here defenders had the advantage, and many a fierce conflict 
had been fought and won upon these brown bogs. 

The Royalist vanguard, now well deployed, soon settled down stead- 
ily to their warlike work— steadily, though the nature of the ground 
was anything but favorable to straight shooting, and many a brave 
soldier, as he leveled his piece, found it hard even to keep his feet in 
the yielding soil. Under the eyes of the President and the whole army, 
Ratcliffe's men deployed, took rank, and fired; loaded, advanced, and 

Great Chiefs and Uncrowned Kings 195 

fired again, ever advancing and ever firing, and the Tir-Conallians, 
despite their showers of arrows and spears, and the "thick volleys of 
red-flaming flashes" with which they responded, began to fall back, 
their steady ranks wavering, trembling, as it were, towards breakage 
and dispersion. 

The men had not expected that they would be required to fight 
a outrance with Clifford's whole army now fast emerging from the 
wood, and getting into position behind their vanguard. They believed, 
and no doubt rightfully believed, that their commander's instructions 
h;td been to fight and fall back, and expected momentarily to hear the 
bugles sing retreat. But MacDermot perceived that his handful might 
even so, by determined valor, defeat and destroy all Clifford's army. 

Could he but beat Ratcliffe, and the vanguard, and drive them 
back in confusion upon the convoy, and then double up the convoy 
and the vanguard together upon the battle, what might not happen on 
such obstructed ground to an army left bare of its horse and encum- 
bered with its own weight? 

At all events he saw this opportunity, and would not have the 
bugles sing retreat at all, but advance, if anything, and the war-pipes 
shriek only battle and onfall. Nothing loath, the pipers stepped out 
and played. 

They were brave men, these pipers. The modern military band re- 
tires as its regiment goes into action. But the piper went on before his 
men and piped them into the thick of battle. He advanced, sounding 
his battle-pibroch, and stood in the ranks of war while men fell round 
him. Derrick in his Image of Ireland, about this date, gives a woodcut 
representing a battle. In the foreground of the Irish lies a slain figure 
reflecting little credit on the artist, but under which Derrick writes 
"pypcr," well aware that the fall of the musician was an event second 
only to that of a considerable officer. So in the State Papers we often 
read such entries as this: 

"Slew Hugh, son of Hugh, twenty-five of his men, and two pipers." 

"Slew Art O'Connor and his piper." 

An illegitimate brother of Black Thomas of Ormond gives a long 
list, name by name, of the rebels whom he slew. Divers pipers are 
specially mentioned, and in such a manner as to indicate that the slayer 
was particularly proud of such achievements. 

So here upon the brown bog Red Hugh's pipers stood out beyond the 
men sounding wild and high the battle-pibrochs of the north with 
hearts and hands brave as any in the wild work, and the bugles sang 
only battle, rang battle, onfall, and victory in men's hearts and ears, 
and the awful music of the oaths outsang all other sounds, outpealed 

196 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

the buglecalls and battle-pibrochs, the thundering of the captains rose 
above the thundering of the guns. 

Up and down, to and fro, ran these, adjuring and menacing, striking 
and heading back the runaways. Hither and thither with swords drawn 
ran the Irish officers, MacDermot, lord of the Curlews, and Red Hugh's 
foster-brother, McSweeny of the Battle-Axes, and the two O'Gallaghers, 
Eocha and TuIIy. To and fro, up and down the wavering ranks they 
rushed thundering abuse, protestations, and many a fierce Irish oath 
and curse; raising high the sacred name of Mary. Mary, and not 
O'Donnell-a-boo seems to have been the war-cry that day. 

Behind the wavering gunmen stood the lowering mailed figure of 
the young Oxonian, Brian Ogue and his century and a half of ranked 
gallow-glasses, their long weapons leveled, not likely to show cowards 
any mercy. Silent and steady they stood to rear of all the battle clangor 
and confusion, a mass, though a small one, of valor educated and 
trained to the point of perfection; clad in complete steel, ready to go 
on or go back at a word from their young chieftain, not at all ready to 
lose rank in either movement — flower of the Brennymen, "very great 
scorners of death." 

And again rearward upon some eminence stood Red Hugh. If we 
could only contrive to see him, with his blue flashing eyes and no- 
toriously fiery locks escaped from the helmet and falling on his mailed 
shoulders, his countenance which "no one could see without loving," 
not now soft, bright, and amiable, as the "Four Masters" beheld it 
when they were boys, but stern and minatory. Somewhere far oft stood 
Red Hugh with his brothers, brave Rory, afterwards Earl, one of the 
two who made the Flight of the Earls and closed a great chapter of 
Irish history; and Manus, the well-beloved, who was to die at home in 
Tir-Connall, slain by the hand of his own rough cousin Nial Garv; and 
Cath-Barr, "Top of Battle," youngest of the famous four. 

The Role of the Bards 

Then near at hand, just in the rear of the fighting men, rode 
O'Rourke's bard, and MacDermot's, and Red Hugh's, as close as they 
might go to the field of battle, noting who were the brave and who 
the recreant. The public entertain a very false notion of the medieval 
bard. They picture him as an old, bent man, with flowing white beard, 
sad, bowed down in spirit, but flashing up under the influence of 
liquor and the spell of poetic rage, a humble wight receiving gifts 
which were a sort of alms. Such is our modern romantic conception of 
the bard. 

Great Chiefs and Uncrowned Kings 197 

The real bard was a high-spirited, proud, and even wealthy man, 
chief of a sept, and lord of extensive estates, holding the same by right 
and not by grace. He had men of war to wait or. him, though he him- 
self wore no arms, for fighting was not his function but the causing of 
others to fight well. He carried no harp, and no orphan boy carried 
one for him, and though he made poems and knew poems by the hun- 
dred, he was no reciter. He went to the wars as an observer and 
watcher, and men feared him. Somewhere, I say, in the neighborhood 
of the battle, such bards, mounted on fleet steeds, watched the progress 
of the fray, noting who were the heroes and who the poltroons. 

And still in the brown bog the captains thundered and the bugles 
rang battle, and the banners waved defiance and advance, the war-pipes 
sounding their shrillest and maddest, the brave pipers standing out 
well in advance of the fighters. Again, through the hearts of the waver- 
ing Tir-Connallians the fading battle-fire blazed out anew; again, 
with firm mien and unbroken ranks, they stood steady to their war- 
work and hurled their rain of spears and arrows, and leveled and fired 
their "perfectly straight and straight-aiming guns" upon the advancing 

MacDermot's Breaks the Battle on the Queen's Host 

Once again Red Hugh's men stood steady and unwavering under the 
Royalist fire, returning the same and with interest. The Royalists had 
a long and wet march, and were not in such good condition as Red 
Hugh's fresh and well-breakfasted troops. Now in their turn, they, too, 
began to slack fire, to waver in their ranks, and finally to retreat upon 
the pike men, probably throwing them, too, into disorder. The Tir- 
Connallians pressing forward began to rain their bullets into the dense 
ranks of the Queen's gallow-glasses of the first division, who had neither 
cavalry nor musketeers to sweep back their assailants. So the latter at 
their ease poured volley after volley upon the resisting mass. 

Ratcliffe, seeing that his gunmen were now beaten past the rally, 
sought to organize a charge of his gallow-glasses, crying loudly that 
he would head the charge himself, calling all true men to follow, and 
even summoning individuals by name out of the wavering and con- 
fused ranks. Meantime Red Hugh's "fulminators" were pouring into 
the struggling crowd out of which Ratcliffe sought to disengage the 
braver elements and fashion a forelorn hope. 

Having in some sort compassed his purpose, though already suffer- 
ing from a shot in the face, he was leading them on "with unconquer- 
able resolution" when his leg was broken by a gun-shot which called 

198 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

him to a sudden halt. So while the blood of his first wound ran down 
his face, stood Ratcliffe supported in the arms of two of his officers, and 
in this situation roared to Henry Cosby who seems to have been next 
in command, directing him to lead the charge, but perceiving him 
slack and as he was being withdrawn out of fire, he called anew to his 
lieutenant: "I see, Cosby, that I must leave thee to thy baseness, but 
will tell thee ere I go that it were better for thee to die in the hands of 
thy countrymen than at my return to perish by my sword." 

But Cosby went not on. He was son of Francis Cosby of Stradbally 
Hall in O'More's country, Cosby of the decorated tree and brother of 
Alexander (as it was surmised) so cleverly dodged the wild cutting and 
slashing of Rory Ogue by using his comrade as a shield. Cosby came 
not on but the Tir-Connallians did. They drew close, archers, cross- 
bowmen, casters, and gunmen, ranked before this jammed mob of 
soldiers, and slaughtered at their leisure, while flaming Ratcliffe was 
being carried to the rear, and cowardly Cosby "showed slackness" in 
leading the forlorn group which his brave commander had disengaged 
and fashioned out of the clubbed vanguard. 

The Brenny Men Let Loose 

This was the moment for a cavalry charge, which, under such con- 
ditions, would have cut the vanguard to ribbons. But cavalry there 
were none on either side. Neither Clifford nor Red Hugh would trust 
their precious cavalry in these bogs and obstructions. But in the rear of 
MacDermot's men there was something as good, better in such ground 
as this. Here in shiny ranks stood O'Rourke's Brenny men standing at 
their ease watching the fray, waiting for one word from their chief. At 
last the word came, literally a word. Brian Ogue, in tones not familiar 
to the class-rooms of Oxford, shouted Farragh. 

"Farragh," he cried now, not Ferio, and like hounds slipped from 
the leash, O'Rourke's Brenny men went upon the Queen's vanguard. 
Only 160, but mailed gallow-glasses, picked men and strong, the flower 
of Breffney, all in rank perfectly fresh, eager as hounds certain of vic- 
tory. MacDermot's gunmen and archers gave way to the right hand 
and to the left, opening out like folding-doors as the Brenny men, with 
a shout which at such an instant changed fortitude to alarm and alarm 
to panic terror, went upon the foe. 

The battle harvest was ripe and these were the reapers; ripened, if I 
may say so, by that rain of darts and spears and that heat of "red- 
flaming flashes" and fiery balls of lead. Guess how coward Cosby, who 
showed slackness in charging the gunmen, met this forward-sweeping 

Great Chiefs and Uncrowned Kings 199 

wave of steel, with its crest of glittering axes. Cosby and his forlorn 
men quickly fell back as if there were any hope in demoralized num- 
bers, terrified yet more by the retreat of the only corps which still 
showed some rudiments of formation. 

The vanguard was hopelessly clubbed, gunmen and halberdiers in- 
extricably tangled. Nor at this juncture had they a leader to disentwine 
the tangle and pull the lines straight and distinct. The vanguard was 
captainless, reduced to that state by Ratcliffe's broken leg and Cosby's 
lily heart. Brave men, surely abundant enough even now in this wild 
moment, had no chance, mobbed, overborne by the cowards unable to 
find each other out in the press and stand together disengaged from 
the ruck. What chance ever have the brave left captainless — what fate 
but to be trampled down by the fools and cowards? 

Had that random bullet but spared their captain's shank-bone things 
might have been so different. Were he at this moment to return as he 
had promised, run his blade through Cosby for a swift and salutary 
beginning, he, standing clear of the chaos, would have gathered all 
these to himself, crying to them in general and calling men by their 
names. . . . 

To left and right MacDermot and his gunmen opened out like 
double-doors unfolding as Brian Ogue went into the Queen's vanguard. 
To right and left they opened and now poured in their fire trans- 
versely on either flank of the struggling mass, while in front Brian Ogue 
and his reapers fell to the despatch of their red work. A moment the 
raised axes, razor-sharp and bright, glistened in the sun, and then fell 
ringing with dry clangor or more horribly silent, rising not so bright, 
rising and falling like lightning, such a war harvest to be reaped, such 
battle-fury in men's hearts, and such an opportunityl 

And on the flanks MacDermot volleyed transversely, and soon his 
spear-hurlers clutched sword and fell on, and the gunmen slung by the 
slow calyver, gripped swordhilt and did likewise. 

Not long the struggle under such conditions. Back rolled the van- 
guard, back where Clifford was ranking his men and making his dis- 
positions, seeing how matters went in front. Back rolled the vanguard 
effusing afar their own panic, back in the first instance on the forward 
convoy. Here the peasant drivers cut their wagon traces, mounted, and 
ran, and the trains of mules and pack-horses stampeded, and amid this 
confusion the flying vanguard tumbled into, through and over the 
battle, while brave Clifford did all that man could do to stem the 
raging storm, and MacDermot's prophetic soul was justified by the 
event. He had doubled back the vanguard and the first convoy upon 

200 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

the battle. And the battle, too, was broken and rolled back on the 
second convoy and the rear guard. 

Clifford's Heroic Death 

At this moment a cry arose: "The President is deadl" The President 
had gone down in the midst of the raging flood but he was not killed. 
His horse was shot, and he had fallen. He was soon on his feet again 
roaring commands and encouragements to his own men, so far as they 
were still rational beings, endeavoring in vain to restore the fight, com- 
manding, entreating, doing all that a brave man could do. "There had 
not come of the English into Ireland in the latter days a better man." 

Seeing the day utterly lost, two of his Irish officers, the lieutenant of 
Captain Burke, name not given, and Sir Miler McSweeney urged him 
to leave the field. 

Overcome with wrath and shame, he declared, Roman-like, that he 
would not overlive that day's ignominy. But that affection which moved 
Sir Miler McSweeny to use entreaties persuaded him now to practice 
force, by which they carried him from the pursuing rebels some few 
paces, when enraged by the wildness of his men, he broke from them 
in a fury, and made head to the whole troop of pursuers, in the midst 
of whom he was when struck through the body with a bullet. He 
died fighting, consecrating by an admirable resolution the memory of 
his name to immortality. 

Yet even after Clifford's death, his division, or parts of it, rallied 
and fought on. Savage and the rear-guard managed to keep their ranks 
while the roaring deluge of flight and panic terror raged past them. 
There was tough fighting, or, at all events, resistance of some sort, 
after the fall of Clifford, and before the best materials of the Queen's 
host gave way utterly, and the rout became universal. 

Savage, I feel sure, played a brave part; I should be much surprised 
if he did not, for gallantry was in his blood. Four centuries had elapsed 
since the founder of the clan Savage marched from Dublin with the 
great John de Courcy and a handful of Norman knights and archers to 
the conquest of Ulster, and did conquer Ulster. 

Savage, surely, like Clifford and Ratcliffe, did his best to save the 
battle, but at last all broke and fled. Brian Ogue's battle-axes going 
like smith's hammers or the flails of thrashing men on their rear and 
MacDermot volleying from right to left, and all solid companies getting 
broken up and swept away by the torrents of panic-stricken humanity. 

Great Chiefs and Uncrowned Kings 201 

So at last the whole of the Queen's host was reduced to chaos, stream- 
ing madly away, and the Battle of the Curlew Mountains was fought 
and lost and won. On rushed the fugitives, disappearing not too rapidly 
within that half mile of autumnal forest. The road was choked with 
Da gg a ge wagons, provisions, camp furniture, impediments of various 
kinds, and the running mass of men collided and jostled against each 
other and the trees, as the Royalists retraveled these primeval soliti- 
tudes, while battle-axe and sword and calyver and pistol played ever 
on their rear. 

Markham Strikes in with the Queen's Horsemen 

As the runaways emerged from the southern fringes of the forest, a 
sight was presented fit to recall a sense of shame and obedience to their 
captains to the minds of men not utterly frenzied and unmanned by 
fear. Before them if they could see anything for fright lay the great 
brown bog threaded by its narrow white road gorse-fringed, and on the 
road the clear midday sunlight glancing from bright morions and 
armor, the Earl of Southampton's horses advancing under the com- 
mand of Sir Griffin Markham; quietly, leisurely, following Sir Conyers 
under full belief that the passage of the Curlews had been forced, 
riding four or five abreast along the road wound through the great bog 
that intervened between the wood and the "barricado with double 

What a spectacle for their brave commander when the wood sud- 
denly began to spout its rills and torrents of wild runaways, kerne, 
gallow-glasses, musketeers, common soldiers and officers tumbling out 
thence in every direction, falling into peat-holes, and rising and run- 
ning, the better part without weapons, many tearing off and flinging 
away their armor as they ran. 

Markham, a brave man who had a head for war and also an eye in 
his head, at a glance took in the situation and decided swiftly on his 
course. When he first witnessed this extraordinary spectacle far out in 
front at the other side of the great bog, viz., the green wood vomiting 
at a hundred points the whole Royalist army which was to have con- 
quered North Connacht, he was not far from that "barricado with the 
double flanks," and advancing along the main road which served so 
much, stretching across the bog like a bent bow. But besides this wheel- 
way there was, as formerly mentioned, another way more direct. 

It was a mere continuity of moderately firm ground, rocky and furze- 
strewn, solid enough for his purpose, which fell in with the main road 
at this side of the wood. Quickly taking in the situation, he advanced 

202 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

as well as he could, and as swiftly, along this rough short-cut by which 
the panic-stricken army did not run, and which was open to his use. 
They, poor wretches, for the most part, poured along and on both sides 
of the main road. 

So avoiding that shameful torrent of wild humanity, he and his 
dragoons by this short-cut struck in upon the main road behind them, 
between the runaways and the pursuers. Here Markham formed his 
men on the road and on both sides of it, the ground being firm enough, 
and charged MacDermot and his gunmen, now disordered in pursuit; 
charged them, and also broke them, cutting them down in all direc- 
tions or driving them into the wood and far out into the wetnesses of 
the bog. 

Now was the time for Captain Burke, Sir Miler McSweeny or some 
other brave and competent officer to take charge of that roaring flood 
of ruin, and reorder such of its elements as were not utterly demoral- 
ized; for the pursuit was stayed, and the pursuers in their turn over- 
thrown by brave Markhain and the cavalry. 

Counter-Charge By Brian Ocue 

Markham's spirited charge gave the opportunity of converting the 
rout into a victory. MacDermot and his gunmen were now shattered 
and dispersed, driven out into the bog on both sides of that firm 
ground where Markham had charged. But now while the Royalist 
dragoons rushed along, sabring and spearing, their ranks quite dis- 
ordered in pursuit, and while some stood firing pistol shots at the gun- 
men out in the bog, Markham and his horse came full tilt upon a new 
and unexpected foe. 

From the wood emerged Brian Ogue with his century and a half of 
heavy-armed foot, steady, ranked, in perfect order. Fearing the event, 
Brian Ogue kept his gallow-glasses well in hand, and here, following 
with slow deliberate foot in the rear of the kerne, emerged to sight. 
From the green forest came to sudden view that formidable phalanx, 
their shining battle-axes now dull enough. 

The Royalist horse were now charged in front by Brian Ogue, while 
MacDermot's gunmen closing in from the bog fired transversely 
through their ranks on each side. Markham and the horse could not 
win the battle alone. Then as now, horse were no match for foot that 
would keep their ranks and decline to be frightened by mere show and 

Charged by Brian Ogue, Markham could not stand the impact of 
the Brenny men. Down tumbled horses and their riders to the cleaving 

Great Chiefs and Uncrowned Kings 203 

of Brian Ogue's battle-axes. Markham, too, was utterly routed, so 
routed that he lost "all his pennons and guidons." Brian Ogue handled 
die Queen's horsemen that day better than I think he ever handled 
Lily's irregular Latin verbs at Oxford. 

There was another Oxford man, but of the Queen's Irish in this 
battle, Richard Burke, Lord Dunkellin, chief designate of the High 
Burkes. Brian Ogue in this melee received two wounds, one in the 
hand and another in the leg. Markham did not escape without receiv- 
ing some tokens. He had the small bone of his right arm broken with 
the stroke of a bullet and his clothes torn by another. 

So the cavalry, too, broke and fled, following the fugitives, and again 
the flood of flight and chase rolled down the slopes of the Curlews. 
The guard so prudently placed at the barricado participated in the 
disgraceful rout, which was perhaps the most remarkable example of 
cowardice in this whole shameful business. 

They were 160 in number and might have held the pass for hours 
against any army unprovided with artillery. Clifford had not destroyed 
the barricade, but merely opened a passage through it. The gap was 
narrow enough for defense and not wide enough for the torrent of ruin 
which now sought to pour through. Some wiser than the rest climbed 
over the rampart and the bristling palisades. Most of the fugitives 
rushed at the open passage and blocked it. But for the relief afforded 
by Markham there would have been an awful slaughter here. 

Of the beaten army the Meath Irish fared worst. The great mass of 
the army were Connacht Irish, who were well acquainted with the 
Curlews and knew good paths over the bogs and through the hills. 
Many of their officers and lords had, I suppose, been often here hawk- 
ing. The Meath Irish knew nothing of the country, and so thought of 
nothing save of rushing straight along by the way they came. The few 
English soldiers here shared their fate. They were certainly few. 

These timber barriers which the Royalists had passed so joyfully 
that morning proved now an obstacle to their flight. Here those who 
still kept their weapons flung them away, and here also quantities of 
clothes and armor were found. The pursuers consisted only of 600 
fulminators, now reduced to less than 400, and Brian Ogue's century 
and a half of gal low-glasses. But resistance was never thought of. 

From the mountains the mingled flood of chase and panic-flight 
rolled on towards the town of Boyle, execution never ceasing, for Sir 
Griffin seems not to have been able again to get his cavalry in order. 

204 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

Through the gates of Boyle it poured, and kept pouring, till the gates 
had to be closed against the foe. 

Red Hugh's lieutenants and their warriors encamped that night 
under or not far from the walls, and one of the most remarkable battles 
recorded in Irish history came to an end. In war there is a great deal 
of luck, and we may observe, too, that scratch armies are admirably 
fitted for the losing of battles. 

Here were Meathian Irish and Connacht Irish — men one might al- 
most describe, such was the disjointed state of the land, as of different 
nationalities; here veterans of the army of Essex, and soldiers drawn 
from the garrisons; here, finally, were English soldiers mixed with 
Irish, and the Irish for the most part not regulars, only the rising-out 
of Meath and Connacht, that is to say, the local gentry and their fal- 
lowings. Yet the little band of conquerors was a scratch army, too, so 
from any point of view it must be accounted a most glorious victory. 

The battle was won by 600 musketeers and archers, and a company 
of Brenneian gallow-glasses. A very remarkable battle in every way; 
lost to the Crown seemingly through the cowardice of the Royalist van- 
guard, or, shall we say, of Henry Cosby, who, we may hope, got well 
killed. In this battle were slain of the Royalists one thousand four hun- 
dred, no quarter being given. MacDermot and Brian Ogue lost in 
killed and wounded only 240 men. The baggage, standards, etc., and 
nearly all the arms of the invading army fell into the hands of the 

When in reading English history we perceive the intense wrath felt 
in London against the Earl of Essex and his conduct of the Irish wars, 
we must remember the sense of imperial humiliation which was felt 
at a defeat such as the foregoing sustained under his government. The 
Nine Years' War is throughout a wonder, miraculous everywhere. 
From beginning to end the insurgent lords lost only one battle, the 
Battle of Kinsale. Yet they were beaten I 

Clifford Decapitated 

Brian Ogue, as stated, received two bullet wounds during his vic- 
torious tussle with Markham and the horse. He rode or was borne in 
a litter homewards to the camp along that corpse-strewn road. His 
scratches don't seem to have troubled him much. He paused as he went, 
scrutinizing with deliberation the bodies of those who by their su- 
perior armor seemed men of rank, and which were exhibited to him 
as he passed. Amongst them he was shown the familiar features of Sir 
Conyers Clifford, President of Connacht. 

Great Chiefs and Uncrowned Kincs 205 

He knew him well. He had been to visit him on his first coming into 
his presidentiad, and had only been prevented from allying himself 
and his Breffneian nation with the Queen's cause by the stern menac- 
ing attitude towards him by Red Hugh. He ordered his attendants to 
behead Clifford, and sent the head forward as a trophy and a token to 
Red Hugh. The decapitation of slain foes was a universal custom of the 
age. Had Brian Ogue fallen, Clifford would have decapitated him. 

Among the rows of heads which adorned the battlements of Dublin 
Castle at this moment was the tarred head of Brian Ogue's own father, 
the brave proud Brian na Murtha. Clifford's head was forwarded to 
Red Hugh in the north; his body was conveyed south to MacDermot, 
to the Castle of Gaywash, hard by Boyle, where McDermot and his 
army were now encamped. 

I like Brian Ogue and am sorry, custom or no custom, that he 
ordered the decapitation of Clifford. My regret has been anticipated 
by the "Four Masters." 

Red Hugh sent a swift detachment of horse with Clifford's head to 
Collooney, to Nial Garv, his cousin in command there. Nial Garv, de- 
manding a parley with the defenders of the Castle, informed Sir 
Donough of the defeat of the Royalists, and in proof of the statement 
exhibited the head of the slain general. That was enough. Sir Donough 
gave up Collooney, himself and its defenders as prisoners without de- 
manding terms, for his condition was desperate. 

Shortly after Red Hugh himself appeared upon the scene, and held 
a long colloquy with his captive. The result of the conference was that 
Sir Donough undertook to transfer his allegiance from the Queen to 
Red Hugh, and to hold all Sligo from him on the same terms that his 
ancestors used to hold it from Red Hugh's ancestors. Hugh reinvested 
him in the lordship of Sligo, presented him with horses, cattle, sheep, 
and ploughs and all manner of farm instruments, and even with a pop- 
ulation, so that in a short time the wasted land became once again an 
inhabited, industrious, and well-settled principality. 

The Disastrous Battle of Kinsale 

There now appear before us two remarkable men whose names are 
prominently identified with this memorable epoch in Irish history — 

From The Story of Ireland, by A. M. Sullivan, pp. 278-285. M. H. Cill & Son, Ltd. 
Dublin. 1905. 

206 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

Mountjoy, the new lord deputy; and Carew, the new lord president of 
Munster. In the hour in which these men were appointed to the con- 
duct of affairs in Ireland, the Irish cause was lost. Immense resources 
were placed at their disposal, new levies and armaments were ordered; 
and again all the might of England by land and sea was to be put forth 
against Ireland. But Mountjoy and Carew alone were worth all the 
levies. They were men of indomitable energy, masters of subtlety, craft, 
and cunning, utterly unscrupulous as to the employment of means to 
an end; cold-blooded, callous, cruel, and brutal. Norreys and Bagnal 
were soldiers— able generals, illustrious in the field. Essex was a lordly 
courtier, vain and pomp-loving. Of these men — soldier and courtier — 
the Irish annals speak as of fair foes. But of Mountjoy and Carew a 
different memory is kept in Ireland. They did their work by the wile 
of the serpent, not by the skill of the soldier. Where the brave and 
manly Norreys tried the sword, they tried snares, treachery, and deceit, 
gold, flattery, promises, temptation, and seduction in every shape. To 
split up the confederation of chiefs was an end towards which they 
steadily laboured by means the most subtle and crafty that human 
ingenuity could devise. Letters, for instance, were forged purporting to 
have been written secretly to the lord deputy by the Earl of Desmond, 
offering to betray one of his fellow confederates, O'Connor. These 
forgeries were "disclosed," as it were, to O'Connor, with an offer that 
he should "forestall" the earl, by seizing and giving up the latter to the 
government, for which, moreover, he was to have a thousand pounds 
in hand, besides other considerations promised. The plot succeeded. 
O'Connor betrayed the earl and handed him over a prisoner to the 
lord deputy, and of course going over himself as an ally also. This rent 
worked the dismemberment of the league in the south. Worse defec- 
tions followed soon after; defections unaccountable, and, indeed, irre- 
trievable. Art O'Neill and Nial Garv O'Donnell, under the operation 
of mysterious influences, went over to the English, and in all the sub- 
sequent events, were more active and effective than any other com- 
manders on the queen's sidel Nial Garv alone was worth a host. He 
was one of the ablest generals in the Irish camp. His treason fell upon 
the national leaders like a thunderbolt. This was the sort of "campaign- 
ing" on which Mountjoy relied most. Time and money were freely 
devoted to it, and not in vain. After the national confederation had 
been sufficiently split up and weakened in this way — and when, north 
and south, the defecting chiefs were able of themselves to afford stiff 
employment for the national forces, the lord deputy took the field. 

In the struggle that now ensued O'Neill and O'Donnell presented 
one of those spectacles which, according to the language of the heathen 

Great Chiefs and Uncrowned Kings 207 

classics, move gods and men to sympathy and admiration. Hearts less 
brave might despair; but they, like Leonidas and the immortal Three 
Hundred, would fight out the battle of country while life remained. 
The English now had in any one province a force superior to the 
entire strength of the national army. The eventful campaign of 1601, 
we are told, was fought out in almost every part of the kingdom. To 
hold the coast lines on the north — where Dowcra had landed (at 
Derry) four thousand foot and four hundred horse — was the task of 
O'Donnell; while to defend the southern Ulster frontier was the pe- 
culiar charge of O'Neill. "They thus," says the historian, "fought as it 
were back to back against the opposite lines of attack." Through all the 
spring and summer months that fight went on. From hill to valley, 
from pass to plain, all over the island, it was one roll of cannon and 
musketry, one ceaseless and universal engagement; the smoke of battle 
never lifted off the scene. The two Hughs were all but ubiquitous; con- 
fronting and defeating an attack to-day at one point; falling upon the 
foes next day at another far distant from the scene of the last encounter 1 
Between the two chiefs the most touching confidence and devoted 
affection subsisted. Let the roar of battle crash how it might on the 
northern horizon, O'Neill relied that all was well, for O'Donnell was 
at his post. No matter what myriads of foes were massing in the south, 
it was enough for O'Donnell to know that O'Neill was there. "Back to 
back," indeed, as many a brave battle against desperate odds has been 
fought, they maintained the unequal combat, giving blow for blow, 
and so far holding their ground right nobly. By September, except in 
Munster, comparatively little had been gained by the English beyond 
the successful planting of some further garrisons; but the Irish were 
considerably exhausted, and sorely needed rest and recruitment. At this 
juncture came the exciting news that — at length! — a powerful auxiliary 
force from Spain had landed at Kinsale. The Anglo-Irish privy council 
were startled by the news while assembled in deliberation at Kilkenny. 
Instantly they ordered a concentration of all their available forces in 
the south, and resolved upon a winter campaign. They acted with a 
vigour and determination which plainly showed their conviction that 
on the quick crushing of the Spanish force hung the fate of their cause 
in Ireland. A powerful fleet was sent round the coast, and soon block- 
aded Kinsale; while on the land side it was invested by a force of some 
fifteen thousand men. 

This Spanish expedition, meant to aid, effected the ruin of the Irish 
cause. It consisted of little more than three thousand men, with a good 
supply of stores, arms, and ammunition. In all his letters to Spain, 
O'Neill is said to have strongly urged that if a force under five thou- 

208 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

sand men came, it should land in Ulster, where it would be morally and 
materially worth ten thousand landed elsewhere; but that if Munster 
was to be the point of debarkation, anything less than eight or ten 
thousand men would be useless. The meaning of this is easily discerned. 
The south was the strong ground of the English, as the north was of 
the Irish side. A force landed in Munster should be able of itself to 
cope with the strong opposition which it was sure to encounter. These 
facts were not altogether lost sight of in Spain. The expedition as fitted 
out consisted of six thousand men; but various mishaps and disappoint- 
ments reduced it to half the number by the time it landed at Kinsale. 
Worse than all, the wrong man commanded it: Don Juan D'Aquilla, a 
good soldier, but utterly unsuited for an enterprise like this. He was 
proud, dour-tempered, hasty, and irascible. He had heard nothing of 
the defections and disasters in the south. The seizure of Desmond and 
the ensnaring of Florence McCarthy — the latter the most influential 
and powerful of the southern nobles and chiefs — had paralyzed every- 
thing there; and Don Juan, instead of finding himself in the midst of 
friends in arms, found himself surrounded by foes on land and sea. 
He gave way to his natural ill-temper in reproaches and complaints; 
and in letters to O'Neill, bitterly demanded whether he and the other 
confederates meant to hasten to his relief. For O'Neill and O'Donnell, 
with their exhausted and weakened troops, to abandon the north and 
undertake a winter march southward was plain destruction. At least 
it staked everything on the single issue of success or defeat before Kin- 
sale; and to prevent defeat and to insure success there, much greater 
organization for cooperation and concert, and much more careful 
preparation, were needed than was possible now, hurried southward 
in this way by D'Aquilla. Nevertheless, there was nothing else for it. 
O'Neill clearly discerned that the crafty and politic Carew had been 
insidiously working on the Spanish commander, to disgust him with 
the enterprise, and induce him to sail homeward on liberal terms. And 
it was so. Don Juan, it is said, agreed, or intimated that if, within a 
given time, an Irish army did not appear to his relief, he would treat 
with Carew for terms. If it was, therefore, probably disaster for 
O'Neill to proceed to the south, it was certain ruin for him to refuse; 
so with heavy hearts the northern chieftains set out on their winter 
march for Munster, at the head of their thinned and wasted troops. 
O'Donnell, with his habitual ardour, was first on the way. He was 
joined by Felim O'Doherty, MacSwiney-na-Tuath, O'Boyle, O'Rorke, 
the brother of O'Connor Sligo, the O'Connor Roe, Mac Dermott, 
O'Kelly, and others; mustering in all about two thousand five hundred 
men. O'Neill, with MacDonnell of Antrim, MacGinnis of Down, Mac- 

Great Chiefs and Uncrowned Kings 209 

Mahon of Monaghan, and others, marched southward at the head of 
between three and four thousand men. Holy Cross was the point where 
both their forces appointed to effect their junction. O'Donnell was first 
at the rendezvous. A desperate effort on the part of Carew to intercept 
and overwhelm him before O'Neill could come up was defeated only 
by a sudden night-march of nearly forty miles by Red Hugh. O'Neill 
reached Belgooley, within sight of Kinsale, on the 21st December. 

In Munster, in the face of all odds — amidst the wreck of the national 
confederacy, and in the presence of an overwhelming army of occupa- 
tion — a few chiefs there were, undismayed and unfaltering, who rallied 
faithfully at the call of duty. Foremost amongst them was Donal 
O'Sullivan, Lord of Beare, a man in whose fidelity, intrepidity, and 
military ability, O'Neill appears to have reposed unbounded confi- 
dence. In all the south, the historian tells, "only O'Sullivan Beare, 
O'Driscoll, and O'Connor Kerry declared openly for the national 
cause" in this momentous crisis. Some of the missing ships of the 
Spanish expedition reached Castlehaven in November, just as O'Don- 
nell, who had made a detour westward, reached that place. Some of 
this Spanish contingent were detailed as garrisons for the forts of 
Dunboy, Baltimore, and Castlehaven, commanding three of the best 
havens in Munster. The rest joined O'Donnell's division, and which 
soon sat down before Kinsale. 

When O'Neill came up, his master-mind at once scanned the whole 
position, and quickly discerned the true policy to be pursued. The 
English force was utterly failing in commisariat arrangements; and 
disease as well as hunger was committing rapid havoc in the besiegers' 
camp. O'Neill accordingly resolved to beseige the beseigers to increase 
their difficulties in obtaining provision or provender, and so cut up 
their lines of communication. These tactics manifestly offered every 
advantage to the Irish and allied forces, and were certain to work the 
destruction of Carew's army. But the testy Don Juan could not brook 
this slow and cautious mode of procedure. "The Spaniards only felt 
their own inconveniences; they were cut off by the sea by a powerful 
English fleet, and," continued the historian, "Carew was already prac- 
tising indirectly to their commander his 'wit and cunning' in the fabri- 
cation of rumours and the forging of letters. Don Juan wrote urgent 
appeals to the northern chiefs to attack the English lines without an- 
other day's delay; and a council of war of the Irish camp, on the third 
day after their arrival at Belgooley, decided that the attack should be 
made on the morrow." At this council, so strongly and vehemently was 
O'Neill opposed to the mad and foolish policy of risking an engage- 
ment which, nevertheless, O'Donnell, ever impetuous, as violently sup- 

210 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

ported, that for the first time the two friends were angrily at issue, and 
some writers even allege that on this occasion question was raised be- 
tween them as to who should assume commander-in-chief on the mor- 
row. However this may have been, it is certain that once the vote of 
the council was taken, and the decision found to be against him 
O'Neill loyally acquiesced in it, and prepared to do his duty. 

On the night of the 2nd January (new style) —24th December old 
style, in use among the English— the Irish army left their camp in 
three divisions; the vanguard led by Tyrrell, the centre by O'Neill 
and the rear by O'Donnell. The night was stormy and dark, with con- 
tinuous peals and flashes of thunder and lightning. The guides lost 
their way, and the march, which even by the most circuitous route 
ought not to have exceeded four or five miles, was protracted through 
the whole night. At dawn of day, O'Neill, with whom were O'Sullivan 
and Campo, came in sight of the English lines, and to his infinite 
surprise found the men under arms, the cavalry in troops posted in 
advance of their quarters. O'Donnell's division was still to come up, 
and the veteran earl now found himself in the same dilemma into 
which Bagnal had fallen at the Yellow Ford. His embarrassment was 
perceived from the English camp; the cavalry were at once ordered to 
advance. For an hour O'Neill maintained his ground alone; at the end 
of that time he was forced to retire. Of Carapo's 300 Spaniards, 40 
survivors were with their gallant leader taken prisoners; O'Donnell at 
length arrived and drove back a wing of the English cavalry; Tyrrell's 
horsemen also held their ground tenaciously. But the rout of the 
centre proved irremediable. Fully 1,200 of the Irish were left dead on 
the field, and every prisoner taken was instantly executed. On the 
English side fell Sir Richard Graeme; Captains Danvers and Go- 
dolphin with several others, were wounded; their total loss they stated 
at two hundred, and the Anglo-Irish, of whom they seldom made count 
in their reports, must have lost in proportion. The earls of Thomond 
and Clanricarde were actively engaged with their followers, and their 
loss could hardly have been less than that of the English regulars. 

On the night following their defeat, the Irish leaders held council 
together at Innishannon, on the river Bandon, where it was agreed that 
O'Donnell should instantly take shipping for Spain to lay the true 
state of the contest before Philip the Third; that O'Sullivan should 
endeavor to hold his castle of Dunboy, as commanding a most import- 
ant harbour; that Rory O'Donnell, second brother of Hugh Roe, 
should act as chieftain of Tyrconnell, and that O'Neill should return 
into Ulster to make the best defence in his power. The loss in men was 

Great Chiefs and Uncrowned Kings 211 

not irreparable; the loss in arms, colours, and reputation, was more 
painful to bear, and far more difficult to retrieve. 

Irish War-Cries 

There was no more effective incentive to noble effort and heroic en- 
deavor than the various war-cries or battle slogans of Irish chiefs and 
clans. High above the din of battle, the wild and often fierce shouts of 
defiance from lusty lungs carried far more terror to the enemy than 
the rudest shock of arms, and inspired more courage and valiant en- 
deavor than even the greatest leader's personality could hope to in- 
spire. The simplest and principal of these war-cries in ancient Erin 
was that of Faire, Faire, signifying "to watch," or "be on your guard," 
literally to "look out," as modern parlance expresses it. This was, in a 
sense, a precautionary signal, yet from this word Faire (commonly 
written Farrah), the modern exclamation "Hurrah" is supposed to 
have been derived. Another and more general cry was a buaidh, signi- 
fying "to the victory." This cry is invariably written aboo, a phonetic 
rendering of the original Gaelic phrase. The latter phrase was added 
to the name of the chief, the tribe, or the clan in the following manner: 
O'Neill abu (the battlecry of the immediate followers of the O'Neill); 
Clann conail abu (the tribe name of the septs, of which the O'Canai- 
nains, O'Mulroys, and, later, the O'Donnells were chiefs). The phrase 
abu or a buaidh is very commonly and incorrectly rendered in English 
"for ever." The phrase go brath is capable of such a translation, but 
not abu; which means "to victory." This practice gained an extraordi- 
nary impetus at the time of the Crusades throughout the then civilized 
world, the English, French, and Spanish nations adopting it. Its spread 
became eventually universal; and the battlecry has been perpetuated 
to the present day. Napier, in his History of the Peninsular War, says: 
"Nothing so startled the French soldiery as the wild yell [fag an beat- 
ach, "clear the way"] with which the Irish soldier sprang to the 

Historic Fontenoy furnishes a striking instance of the inspiring effect 
of the war-cry. The Irish brigade under command of O'Brien (Lord 
Clare) ordered as a forlorn hope by Marshal Saxe to save what seemed 
to him almost certain and disastrous defeat, rushed at their foes with 
the cry, Cuimhnidh ar Luimneach, agus ar Fheille na Sacsanach 

From The Gael. March, 1899, pp. 11-12. New York. 

212 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

("Remember Limerick, and Saxon Faith"), utterly routing the allied 
forces of English, Dutch, Hanoverian, and Austrians under Cumber- 

Heraldry has done much to perpetuate these old war-cries in the 
form of "mottoes** appended on ribbons and affixed to the blazon of 
arms. In these cries is found the origin of the use of such mottoes, 
which are an elaboration of the original war-cry. 

The following will serve as illustration: 

O'Beirne, chief of Hy-Birn, county Roscommon: Use the motto adopted 
by the O'Beirne of Spain, Fuimus: "We have been." 

O'Breen, chief of Luigne or Leyney, county Westmeath: Comhrac an 
ceart! "Fight for the right." 

O'Brien, Munster's ancient kings: Lamh laidir a-n uachdar, "The 
strong hand uppermost." This is also borne by the O'Kenncdys, the 
senior branch of the sept. 

Burke, or De Burgo: The followers of Richard de Burgo, or Burke, 
second Earl of Ulster, adopted the Irish language, customs, and dress, 
and, following the Irish custom (because he was red-haired) , styled 
their chief Ricard earla ruadh, or "Richard the Red Earl." Their 
war-cry was Gall ruadh abu! "The red stranger to victory." 

MacCartan, chiefs of Kinelarty, county Down: Buailim-se, "I strike." 

MacCarthy, Prince of Desmond, whose battlecry was Lamh laidir abu, 
"The strong hand to victory." The MacCarthy Reagh and other 
branches of the family also use this on their arms as a motto. The 
Latin motto, Fortis, ferox et celer, "Strong, fierce and swift," is also 
used, and that of Forti et fideli nihil difficile, "Nothing is difficult 
to the strong and faithful." 

MacCoghlan, Lords of Delvin, King's county: Ceart na suas, "Justice, 
not urbanity." 

O'Concannon, chiefs of Hy-Diarmada in ancient Connaught: Conn 
gan on, "Wisdom without guile." 

O'Connell, chief in Kerry: Ciall agus neart, "By reason and strength." 

O'Connor, kings of Connaught: O Dhia! gach an cathair, "OhI God to 
each [of us] a fortress." 

Dayton-Fitzgerald: Shanet abu! "Shanet to victory." This was the war- 
cry of the "Desmond" Fitzgeralds, and is borne as a motto by the 
families of Vesey-Fitzgerald, Foster-Vesey-Fitzgerald, Fitzgerald of 
Kilcourcy and of Adelphi, county Clare, and other branches; whilst 
those of the "Geraldine" of Leinster-Fitzgeralds and its offshoots in- 
variably use the war-cry Crom abu! "Crom to Victory!" Crom castle 
was an ancient stronghold of the Fitzgerald family in Limerick. 

Great Chiefs and Uncrowned Kings 213 

O'Doherty, lords of Innishowen, county Donegal: Ar-n-duthchas, "For 
our [birthplace] inheritance." 

O'Donnell, princes of Tir Conail: Their war-cry was O'Dombhnaill 
abu! "O'Donnell to victory!" The motto borne with arms is In hoc 
signo vinces, "In this sign, conquer." Also borne by the O'Donnells 
of Spain and Austria. 

O'Donovan, lords of Clann Cahill, county Limerick: Giolla ar n-Nam- 
huid abu! "Servant of our enemy to victory!" i.e., a successful fighter. 
The motto Vir super hostem ("A man above an enemy," i.e., gener- 
ous to foes) is sometimes used on arms. 

O'Dunne, chiefs of Hy-Riagain, Queen's county: Mullach Eireann abul 
"The summit of Erin to victory!" A cry adopted from top or sum- 
mit of Slieve Bloom Mountains (Ard Eireann) , on the borders of 
King's and Queen's counties, and lying in the ancient possessions of 
the O'Dunnes. 

O'Farrell, princes of Annally: Bhris me mo ghreim, "Active am I in my 
task," in allusion to crest. 

Fitzpatrick, or MacGiolla Padraig, princes of Ossory: Ceart laidir abu! 
"Right is strong in victory." 

Fleming, Lord Slane, a title now abeyant: Bhear na righ gan, "May the 
King live forever." A relic of Jacobite days. 

O'Fogarty, lords of Eliogarty, county Tipperary: Fleadh agus failte, 
"A banquet and a welcome." 

Fox, lords of Teffia and chiefs of Kilcourcy: Sionnach abu! "The fox 
to victory!" This war-cry is derived from the fact that the head of 
the sept of O'Catharnaigh (O'Kearney) was styled An Sionnach 
("the fox") , and his descendants take their family name from him. 

McGarry, lords of Dal Buinne, county Antrim: Fear garbh a' maith, 
"A rugged man, but excellent in battle," i.e., a good fighter. 

O'Gorman, chiefs in Queen's county and county Clare: Tosach cathad 
agus deineachad air, "First in the battle, and last in the fight." This 
is often rendered in Latin: Primi et ultimi in bello. 

Grace: This Norman-Irish sept o£ Kilkenny used as war-cry, Gras aig 
abu! "Valiant [generous] Grace to Victory." 

O'Halloran, lords of Clann Ferghail: This war-cry was Clann Fearghail 
abu! "Clann Ferghail to victory!" The motto used on arms is Lotaim 
agus marbhaim: "I wound and I kill." 

O'Hagan, lords of Tullaghoge, county Tyrone: Buaidh no bas, "Vic- 
tory or death." 
O'Hanley, chief in Roscommon: Saigheadoir collach abu! "Victory to 
the valiant archer [slayer] of the boar." 

214 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

O'Hanrahan, chiefs in Corcaree, county Westmeath, and in Tipperary: 

An Uachdar, "The uppermost." 

Hussey, baron Galtrim: Ceart direach abu! "Strict justice in victory." 

Kavanagh (senior branch of the McMurroughs, kings of Leinster) : 

Siothchain agus fairsinge, "Peace with plenty." This is rendered in 

Latin Fortis et hospitalis. 

O'Leary, chiefs of Hy-Laoghaire, now "Iveleary," county Cork: Laidir 

is e lear righ, "Strong is the sea-king." 
Magawley, lords of Calry, county Westmeath: Many of the parent 
branches blazon the motto Dulce periculum ("Danger is sweet") 
with their armorial bearings. Valerio Magawley-Cerati, Count of the 
Holy Roman Empire of Austria (his birthplace) , is a scion of the 
ancient house of Calry. By reason of such descent, and to emphasize 
that fact, he had confirmed to him and his heirs the right to bear 
the arms Of the clan MacAmhalghaidh, with the motto, Lamh dhearg 
abu! "The red hand to victory." 
MacMahon, lords of Farney, county Monaghan: So dorn do na dub- 
fhuiltibh, "Here is the fist [hand] for the dark-blooded," i.e., the 
traitor or enemy. It is also used in Latin, Manus haoc inimica tyran- 
nis ("This hand is an enemy to tyrants") . 
Mahon, of Roscommon (a Roscommon, branch of the Ulster Mac- 

Mahons) : Buaidh go brato! "Victory forever." 
O'Mahoney, chiefs in Cork and Kerry: Lasair romhuinn a buaidh! 

"Flame before us to victory." 
O'Meagher, chiefs of Ikerrin, county Tipperary: Meagher go brath, 
"Meagher Forever." Their motto, "Brave as a Lion — Bold as a 
O'Molloy, hereditary standard bearers to the Ardrigh in Ireland: 
Gearr aige agus doghadh buaidh, "Short in action and mischievous 
in victory." 
O'More, prince of Leix: Connlan abu, "The hero to victory." 
O'Neill, prince of Tirowen: Lamh dearg Eirinn, "The red hand for 
Erin." The arms of the O'Neill is the red sinister hand which the 
O'Neill alone bears properly. Those who are descended from his race 
use a red dexter hand. The red hand is the badge of the ancient 
Clanna Ruadri (clan Rory) of Ulster. The O'Neills appropriated 
it at the expulsion of the Irian septs (of which were the clan Rory) 
by the Hermonian power. 
O'Rourke, prince of Breffney: Buaidh! "To victory." This is borne 

by the O'Rourkes of France also. 
O'Shaughnessy, chiefs of Cineal Hugh, county Galway: Buailim se, 
"I strike him." 

Great Chiefs and Uncrowned Kings 215 

O'Sullivan Mor: Lamh foisneach abu! "The quiet [gentle] hand to 

MacSwinney, chiefs of Donegal and Cork: Tuaghan tulaigh abu! "The 

axe of the hillock to victory!" 
Woulfe (anciently the sept O'Nfictire) : Guileann uasal, "The noble 

whelp." The name Mictire means "Son of the Craftsman." 

Mottoes in England and Ireland are not necessarily hereditary, and 
unless attached to or in any way forming a part of the arms or crest 
may be altered, assumed, or discarded at the will of the bearer. 







! Part IV 



The Last Soldier-Leader 

"With Owen O'Neill passed away the greatest Irishman of his 
period. He had sacrificed a splendid position in the Spanish army to 
come to Ireland, where he was rewarded with distrust and dislike. 
His career is one of the greatest tragedies in the history of Ireland. 
Landing there only to find that the movement he had helped to 
plan was on the verge of extinction, he, by his personality and 
strength, organized and resuscitated his despairing party. Among 
Irish generals he only was able to make headway against his enemies. 
When the break-up of the Confederation came he found himself not 
only fighting the English and Scots, but also the armies of his coun- 
trymen in the South. In the campaign against the armies of Inchi- 
quin, Preston, Clanricarde and Jones, with the Scots under Monroe 
in his rear, he showed that the reputation which he had won in 
Flanders was not unearned. To have brought off his army unscathed 
from the midst of so many enemies was one of the most remarkable 
feats in history. 

From O'Neill and Ormond, by Diarmid Coffey. Maunsel & Company. Dublin. 



The debacle of Kinsale meant the breakup of Gaelic Ireland. Lands 
were no longer held by the old tenures and the old allegiances were 
whittled away. O'Neill, some time after he had signed the Articles of 
Mellifont, left Ireland with some of his kinsmen and with some of the 
lords who were allied to him. This "Flight of the Earls" is a puzzling 
episode. O'Neill believed that a conspiracy was in existence to put 
him on trial that would have an ignominious execution at the end. Kut 
he must have known, too, that his flight with kinsmen and friends 
would be as morally devastating as a lost battle. Such indeed was the 
case. Not the Battle of Kinsale but the Flight of the Earls impressed 
itself on the peoples' memory. Now comes an emigration of leading 
members of the historic families. Spain is hospitable to them, and they 
take military service mainly in the Spanish Netherlands. 

To the Ireland of the time, the depression and emigration of the 
leading families meant more than the destruction of an aristocracy 
would have meant to any other country in western Europe. The whole 
social system depended on the great families: it was they who supported 
the scholars, musicians, poets, law officers. The disappearance of an 
historic family left a blank in the countryside. 

This might have eventuated in the disappearance of the whole 
national tradition; however, there were men in Ireland who were able 
to make a new line of defense, a spiritual line of defense. These were 
the scholars who set down in Irish Forus Feasa ar Eirinn and the work 
that we now name The Annals of the Four Masters, Geoffrey Keating 
and the Franciscans, Michael O'Clery, Peregrine O'Clery, Fearfeasa 
O'Mulcrony, Peregrine O'Duigenan. The object of these scholars was 
to give to the Irish people — how easily they might have been left 
without it — a sense of the dignity of their country. Without these 
devoted scholars Ireland would indeed have been the Celtic fringe 
of another land. It fell to the scholars rather than the poets to do 
this; the scholars had a national outlook while the poets were attached 
to particular families. However, in the seventeenth and eighteenth 
centuries the poets were to supply a vision that kept the spirit alive 
in the country. 

In the history presented by Geoffrey Keating and the scholars whom 
we know as the Four Masters, much — indeed, in the case of the An- 
nals — the greater part is derived from epic and saga material. This, 

of course, does not detract from either work as an image of the Ireland 
that is gone but that will be looked back to with pride and renewed 
hope. There is a remarkable spirit of generosity in ihe contemporary 


220 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

and the near-contemporary parts of the Annals. Every English soldier 
and administrator whose conduct showed any degree of fairness is 

flSTs a", the / UU - " F ? r ^ ^ ° f G ° d and the ^nor of ?SEd " 
this is a trans ation of a line from the dedication of the Annals. It 

W h e " k 1 S: ? Ut r th ° se who know of the A "nals as a son o 
wSf,M h^ °K° k lh l nk ° f h 3S 3 Si "g le line dedication. If it were, ° 
would have been the most comprehensive dedication in literature: the 
work is worthy of such a dedication. 

n ? n u ^ e ( ?°" t i n ! n . t J the Irish were not a mere soldiery. Don Philip 

?ears' W^ 11 } M^ """V"! La " n a fascinati "g account of the Nine 
Lnl 7 ar c for the sons of I* veterans. Irish scholars took over a 
5?i ? C i '" Sa J amanca University,- and in Louvain in the Spanish 
Netherlands, Irish scholars gave and received instruction 

bard o? S g O'n ' Nei n ""i, 11 " fc J Iow ex P atria <« died in Rome, the 
bard of the O Donnells addressed to the Lady Nu.l. O'Donnell a 

Lament for the Princes in which they are mourned for as the last "of 

the line of Conn." Twenty years after that elegy was uttered a soldier 

appeared who was to show that line at its noblest. 

Owen Roe O'Neill and Oliver Cromwell 

The place was Arras, the time 1640. Arras was a place difficult to 
detend against the French, one of those commanders was to be known 
in history as the great Conde. A force of Spaniards and Irish held it 
until they were permitted to march out with the honors of war Their 
commander was "Don Eugenio O'Neill, Irish colonel, a man of crcat 
experience," says the Spanish record. 

In Irish history Don Eugenio is known as Eoghan (Owen) O'Neill, 

and, on account of the color of his hair, "Ruadh" or "red" Owen 

Roe O'Neill. He was the son of Hugh O'Neill's younger brother, and 
had a command in the war that ended with the debacle of Kinsale: 
he was sixteen at the victory of the Yellow Ford and twenty at the de- 
feat at Kinsale. Subsequently he took service with the Spaniards, 
serving as so many of the Irish did at the time in the Netherlands. 

Owen was a man of the new time, a military officer, not a hereditary 
chieftain. He was an Irishman rather than a Gael. Many Irish Cath- 
olics of Norman and English descent were coming into the Nether- 
lands, and O'Neill made an effort to get them into Irish regiments. 
He was an O'Neill, an Ulsterman, but on another side he went back to 
the Fitzgeralds; he was a grandson of the great Earl of Kildare. His 
wife, Lady Rose O'Doherty, was the granddaughter of Shane O'Neill. 
She was a great lady and a heroine in her own right. 

As a soldier whose experience was noted, he might have become a 

. *,T he Irish 8° vernmen t has just returned to the Spanish this college— a beaudful 
building known as "The College of the Irish Nobles." 

Ireland Without Leaders 221 

Spanish grandee and appeared, as his undistinguished cousin did, in a 
Velasquez painting. Under his quiet and patient exterior there was a 
dream, a dream that he was to speak of on his dying bed — to lift the 
oppression from his own country and then to help drive the Turks 
out of Europe. His house in Brussels was an Irish headquarters; he 
kept in touch with all that was happening in Ireland and with various 
forces in Europe. 

An ill-organized insurrection in Ulster brought O'Neill with sea- 
soned troops on the Irish scene. Sometime afterwards a government 
was set up in Kilkenny. O'Neill placed himself under it. 

The government was the Council of the Catholic Confederation: 
it was in Catholic interests but Royalist Protestants were favorable to 
it because it was counter-Puritan, counter-Parliamentarian. It was 
recognized abroad. However, it was a government that was riddled 
with weaknesses. Its one asset was the armed forces it assembled, but 
that asset it proceeded at once to dissipate by setting up four separate 
commands — Ulster, Munster, Connacht, and Leinster. The Ulster 
command went to O'Neill, but the important one, the Leinster com- 
mand, went to one who had been his rival in the Netherlands where 
his reputation was low, to General Preston. The Connacht command 
went to an English Catholic, Lord Castlehaven, whose main concern 
was the restitution of his property. The Royalists kept an army under 
Lord Ormond, an opportunist Irishman of Norman descent, a Butler. 
The Parliamentarians had an army under General Jones, while the 
Scots in Ulster had an army under an officer who had been trained in 
Sweden, General Munroe. 

In England the Puritans were a rising power, in Scotland the Cov- 
enanters were dominant. In Ireland the Catholic Confederation was 
made up of Gaelic and Norman-Irish and Anglo-Irish elements. Its 
business was to keep in existence the Three Kingdoms with a Stuart 
king at their head. It was made up of magnates who wanted security 
for their landed property, freedom of religion, the right to set up 
their own schools, entry into the university and an untrammelled com- 
merce. They were moderate and they were compromising, and against 
them were set the aggressiveness of the Parliamentarians in England 
and the Covenanters in Scotland who were out to destroy Catholicism, 
root and branch. 

From its establishment there were tensions within the Council set 
up by the Catholic Confederation. The Anglo-Irish who dominated 
it distrusted the Gaelic party who, they suspected, looked to France or 
Spain rather than to Royalist England; next to a complete defeat by 
the Puritans they dreaded a victory by a representative of the Old 
Irish. They kept O'Neill in Ulster until it was necessary to bring him 
closer to headquaters to repair Preston's defeat. Meanwhile they gave 
away their military power for treaties that could never be kept. 

In this war two actions stand out — O'Neill's brilliant victory over 


A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

the Scottish general at Benburb, and, at the end of the war, his 
nephew s young Hugh O'Neill's, defense of Clonmel against Cromwell. 
And the knightly character of Owen Roe stands out against the murk 
fedCTaSion intri g ue that hangs over the later history of the Con- 

The state of war lasted eleven years. Seventy thousand troops— an 
immense force in those days— were sent into Ireland, most of them 
were killed or taken prisoner. Ireland lost five-sixths of her popula- 
won. We need not be incredulous of such mortality, for in those days 
armies lived off the country which in protracted warfare meant that 
iamine succeeded famine. A man might travel twenty or thirty miles 
says Prendergast, the reputable historian of The Cromwellian Settle, 
ment, and not see a living creature. Homeless children were picked up 
and sold to slavers. Wolves roamed over Ireland, preying on debil- 
itated people. Looking back on this time the Irish people found their 
bitterest imprecation in "The curse of Cromwell." and. remembering 
the gloomy troopers who took possession of confiscated lands, they said 
of one who was forbidding, "The drop of Cromwell is in him." 

But such summaries do not make for sensible history. Cromwell's 
own campaign in Ireland was short and brought to a conclusion a war 
that had lost its objectives. And there was no organization, no leader 
with whom the English dictator could make a tolerable peace. 

And yet when this has been said there is something particularly 
sinister about the English Parliamentarian subjugation of Ireland: it 
is not in the fact that their generals had prisoners hanged and that 
they refused the usual quarter to the inhabitants of towns they entered. 
It is in the fact that they commercialized the war. It was financed by 
London merchant-companies on the security of land bonds, which 
meant that those who held bonds took possession of lands and dwell- 
ings leaving their former owners without means of subsistence. Men, 
women, and children went in payment, too; prisoners taken in cap- 
tured towns, children roaming the countryside were sold to those who 
transported them to the West Indies, to work as slaves in the planta- 
tions. # Cromwell landed in August; in November, Owen Roe O'Neill 
died on the island of Lough Oughter in county Cavan. With the 
remnant of his army his nephew made a stand at Clonmel. 

It seems odd to envisage Owen Roe O'Neill and Oliver Cromwell 
sitting down together to make a settlement. Yet if Owen Roe had had 
his uncle's sense of political expediency, and, unmindful of the Council 
in Kilkenny, had held a strong force in Ulster, this might have even- 

• This traffic may have begun with the picking up of vagrant youngsters. But 
the Cromwellian soldiery would have had no scruple about "breaking and entering" 
to get them. They had to have booty, and Irish youngsters had become booty. 
Sir William Petty estimated that six thousand young boys and girls were trans- 
ported to the plantations. This is likely to be a conservative estimate. 

Ireland Without Leaders 223 

tuated. Cromwell's General Monk had opened negotiations with him. 
Munroe, whom he had defeated at Benburb, -wrote to him in friendly 
terms; JD did Coote, another Puritan general. 

The conquest which the Plantagenet Kings and the Tudor State had 
tried to effect was now accomplished. "The brethren of the Covenant 
and the sword," writes Carlyle in his preface to one of the volumes of 
the writings and speeches of Oliver Cromwell, "looked forward to the 
acomplishment of a dream which they had long entertained, the 
vision of a rich and fertile country, a promised land, which should be 
the prize of victory and whose estates should be enjoyed by the con- 
querors. In that spirit Cromwell and his men approached their task." 
After Cromwell's conquest, the Irish champions are outlaws and men 
who were trained in isolated parts of the country — scholars, poets, 
minstrels.— P.C. 

Dedication of The Annals' of the Four Masters 

"It is self-evident, wherever nobility and honor flourish, that nothing 
is more glorious or more worthy of praise than to revive the knowledge 
of ancient authors and of the illustrious personages and nobles of 
former times, so that succeeding generations might cherish the memory 
ot tneir ancestors. ' 

"I, Michael O'Clerigh, a poor brother of the Order of Saint Francis 
have come before you, O noble Farrell OGara, knowing what erie 

^ OTT r 'I WaS l ° r° U (f ° r thC S l0r y of God and ^e honor of Ire- 
land that the race of the Gael has passed under a cloud of darkness, 

abbots ™H 7 mo " a !. remains ° f ™ "ints and virgins, our bishops, 
abbots, and church dignitaries, our kings and princes, lords, chiet. 
tains and men of learning. I explained to you that I thought I could 
get the assistance of the chroniclers whom I most esteemed to compile 
a book of annals, in which the aforesaid matters might be put on rec- 
ord; and that, should they not be written down now, they would not 
again be discovered to be put on record until the end of the world." 

Dudley Mac Firbis 

Dubhaltach Mac Firbisigh, or, as the name is Anglicized, Donald or 
Dudley Mac Firbis, was born about 1585 at Lecain, in the county 
Sligo. According to Eugene O'Curry, he "appears to have been intended 
for the hereditary profession of antiquarian and historian, or that of 
the Fenechas, or ancient laws of his native country (now improperly 
called the Brehon Laws). To qualify him for either of these ancient 
and honorable professions, and to improve and perfect his education, 
young Mac Firbis appears at an early age to have passed into Munster. 
and to have taken up his residence in this school of law and history, 
then kept by the Mac Eagans of Lecain, in Ormond, in the present 
County of Tipperary. He studied, either before or after this, in Burren. 
in the present county of Clare, at the no less distinguished legal and 
literary school of the O'Davorens, where we find him with many other 

A compendium of Irish history completed in 1632. 

By Charles OTarrell, In The Gael, June. 1901. pp. 173-174. New York. 


Ireland Without Leaders 225 

young Irish gentlemen about the year 1595, under the presidency of 
Daniel O'Davoren." 

Dudley Mac Firbis' studies were not confined to the ordinary 
branches of education obtainable through the medium of his native 
language, but included also Greek and Latin. 

After the completion of his education we have no account of Mac 
Firbis until the year 1645, when he seems to have been settled in 
Galway, where he made the acquaintance of the learned Roderick 
O'Flaherty, author of Ogygia and Dr. John Lynch, author of Cam- 
brensis Eversus, to both of whom he acted as Irish tutor, affording 
them besides much valuable assistance in the prosecution of their his- 
torical studies. 

At this period Mac Firbis commenced his important work on Irish 
genealogies, which occupied five years, as lie states he finished it in 
1650 at the College of St. Nicholas, Galway. O'Curry in speaking of 
this work says: 

"This book is, perhaps, the greatest national genealogical compila- 
tion in the world, and when we remember his great age at the time of 
its compilation, and that he neither received nor expected reward from 
anyone, that he wrote this book (as he himself says), simply for the 
enlightenment of his countrymen, the honor of his country, and the 
glory of God, we cannot but feel admiration for his enthusiasm and 
piety, and veneration for the man who determined to close his life 
by bequeathing this precious legacy to his native land." 

In 1652 on the surrender of Galway to the Parliamentary Forces, 
Dr. Lynch fled to France, and Mac Firbis lost one of his best and most 
steadfast friends. He continued, however, under adverse circumstances 
to apply- his honest zeal and active industry to the task of transferring 
and restoring into permanent form the contents of manuscripts falling 
into decay. After a few years as a transcriber, his prospects assumed 
a brighter aspect. Sir James Ware, impressed with the importance of 
securing the services of one so thoroughly acquainted with the lan- 
guage, history, and antiquities of his country as Mac Firbis had the 
reputation of being, employed him, in the year 1655, to collect and 
translate from the Irish annals, materials for the composition of his 
learned works on the antiquities and Ecclesiastical History of Ireland. 

The death of his patron having put a stop to his labors in Dublin, 
Mac Firbis appears to have returned to Sligo, his native place, where 
he lived in great poverty during the remaining years of his life. He 
had outlived many of his friends who had encouraged and assisted him 
in former years; others, like Dr. Lynch, had sought safety in flight from 
tb* vengeance of their successful opponents in the civil war which then 

226 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

distracted the country; of those who remained behind, the majority, 
including the learned Roderick O'Flaherty, heir to a handsome patri- 
mony, were reduced by confiscation to a state of poverty hardly less 
intense than that into which Mac Firbis was plunged. 

The death of Mac Firbis was sudden and violent. In the year 1670 
while traveling to Dublin he was assassinated at Dunflin, in the county 
Sligo. The circumstances attending the event are thus narrated by 
Professor O'Curry: 

"Mac Firbis was at that time under the ban of the penal laws, and, 
consequently, a marked and almost defenseless man in the eye of the 
law, while the friends of the murderer enjoyed the full protection of 
the constitution. He must have been then past his eightieth year, and 
he was, it is believed, on his way to Dublin, probably to visit Robert, 
the son of Sir James Ware. He took up his lodgings for the night in 
the village of Dunflin, in his native county. While sitting and resting 
himself in a little room of the shop, a young gentleman of the Crofton 
family came in, and began to take some liberties with a young woman 
who had care of the shop. She, to check his freedom, told him that he 
would be seen by the old gentleman in the next room; upon which, in 
a sudden rage, he snatched up a knife from the counter, rushed 
furiously into the room, and plunged it into the heart of Mac Firbis. 
Thus it was that, at the hand of a wanton assassin, this great scholar 
closed his long career — the last of the regularly educated and the most 
accomplished master of the history, antiquities, and laws and language 
of ancient Erin." 

Owen Roe O'Neill's Speech at Benburb 

Owen Roe O'Neill addresses his troops before the battle of Benburb: 
a British officer's account. 

. . . Then there was an intermission on both sides, being preparing 
to fight more close, on which MacArt (Owen Roe O'Neill) spoke these 
words, as I was told, or to that effect. — 

"Gentlemen and Fellow Soldiers! Know that those who stand before 

From History of the War in Ireland, from 1641-1653, by a British officer of the 
regiment of Sir John Clotworthy. Dublin. 1873. 

Quoted in Ireland from the Flight of the Earls to Grattan'g Parliament, a docu- 

mentary record compiled and edited by James Carty, pp. 65-66. C J. Fallon, Ltd. 
Dublin. 1949. 

Ireland Without Leaders 227 

you ready to fight are those that banished you, your Wives and Chil- 
dren from your Lands and Houses, and make you seek your Bread and 
Livelihood in strange places. Now you have Arms in your hands as 
good as they have, and you are Gentlemen as good as they are. You are 
the Flower of Ulster, descended from as Ancient and Honourable a 
Stock of People as any in Europe. This Land you and your Predeces- 
sors have possessed for about three thousand years. All Christendom 
knows your quarrel is good— a Fight for your native Birthright and 
for the Religion which your Forefather professed and maintained 
since Christianity came first to this Land. 

"So now is the time to consider your distressed and slavish condition; 
you have Arms in your Hands, you are as numerous as they are; and 
now try your Valour and your Strength on those who have banished 
you, and now resolve to destroy you Bud and Branch. So let your Man- 
hood be seen by your push of Pike; and I will engage, if you do so, 
by God's assistance and the Intercession of His Blessed Mother, and 
all the Holy Saints in Heaven, that the Day will be your own. Your 
word is Sancta Maria; and so in the Name of the Father, Son and Holy 
Ghost advance, and give not Fire until you are within Pike length." 

Which accordingly was observed. At which time the Sun and Wind 
were against them, and blew the Smoke in their faces, so that for a 
little moment the Musketeers could not see. At which charge the 
Scottish and British officers stood it Manfully, and left not their 
Ground until they were beaten down by push of Pike. But their men 
did not back them so vigorously as they should . . . the Irish Pikes 
were longer by a foot, and far better to pierce, being four square and 
small and the others' Pikes broad-headed which are the Worst in the 

An Officer Describes the Rout at Benburb 

The rout began two hours before night, in which the enemy left 
very rich booty of all sorts, which hindered the execution much, by 
the soldiers falling to plunder. My lord Montgomery was taken pris- 

From A Journal of the Most Memorable Transactions of General Owen O'Neill 
and His Party, from the year 1641 to the year 1650, faithfully related by Colonel 
Henry McTully O'Neill, who served under him. 

Ibid., p. 64. 

228 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

oner and so was Major Cocheran; Captain Hamilton, with several 
other officers slain, with four thousand private men on the spot; and in 
the pursuit that night and the next day, about one hundred and fifty 
soldiers were taken prisoners, and dismissed with a pass. To the best of 
my memory upwards of twenty colours were taken, their artillery 
(being four field-pieces) with most of all their tents, arms and baggage 
left behind (except Sir James Montgomery's regiment on their right 
who escaped). . . . Next day O'Neill ordered my lord Blayney's and 
Captain Hamilton's corpses to be interred in Benburb church with the 
proper ceremonies. . . . 

Oliver Cromwell Reports on the Taking of Drogheda 

It hath pleased God to bless our endeavours at Tredah. After bat- 
tery, we stormed it. The enemy were about 3,000 strong in the town. 
They made a stout resistance, and near 1,000 of our men being en- 
tered, the enemy forced them out again. But God giving a new courage 
to our men, they attempted again, and entered, beating the enemy 
from their defences. The enemy had made three entrenchments, both 
to the right and left of where we entered; all which they were forced 
to quit. Being then entered, we refused them quarter; having the day 
before summoned the town. I believe we put to the sword the whole 
number of the defendants. I do not think thirty of the whole number 
escaped with their lives. Those that did, are in safe custody for the 

Barbadoes I wish that all honest hearts may give the glory of this 

to God alone, to whom indeed the praise of this mercy belongs. 

[He told the Council that 3,000 at least, besides some women and 
children, were, after the assailants had taken part and afterwards all 
the town, put to the sword on 11th and 12th September; at which time 
Sir Arthur Aston, the governor, had his brains beat out, and his body 
hacked and chopped to pieces.] 

From a letter to the Hon. John Bradshaw, Esq., President of the Council of State. 
Dublin, September 16, 1649. 
Ibid., p. 70. 

Ireland Without Leaders 229 

Pierce Ferriter, Outlaw Hero 

We know a good deal about Pierce Ferriter. The scion of a distin- 
guished Norman-Irish family, he had an estate in Kerry. He was a 
leader in the war that Cromwell ended; his estate was confiscated and 
he was condemned to death. It is at this stage, when he is a "man on 
his keeping" that he becomes the hero of stories told in Kerry and 
the Blaskets. He was hanged by the party of soldiers that captured 
him. Pierce Ferriter, like his English Cavalier contemporaries, was a 
poet, a wit, and a swordsman. His charming poem to Meg Russell, an 
English girl who entered aristocratic circles, shows how close Royalist 
Irish and English were before the Puritans gained the ascendency. 

The scholar who wrote down the folk-tale in which he figures says 
little about his poetry. He was a poet of distinction, much more open 
to European influences than the Irish poets who were his contempor- 
aries. To readers of Anglo-Irish literature, his name is known through 
his "Lament for Sir Maurice Fitzgerald." — P.C. 

"I remember well," he went on, "how once, when we were digging 
a grave, we found shaped stones below the earth, and there were marks 
of lime on the stones. It was said that Pierce Ferriter had his castle 
there, a place that he could fly to when the chase was too hot upon 
his heels." 

"Pierce Ferriter?" I [Robin Flower] cried. "That would be the 

"The poet it was, and, beyond being a poet, he was many other 
things too. He had done many deeds out of the way, things that didn't 
please the King and his people. So the watch was out after him, and 
before they caught him in the end, and hanged him, he had many a 
shift to keep his feet free of them. They did their best to come up with 
him, but he was too clever for them for a good while. He had this 
castle built on the brink of the cliff, and he used to live in it; but 
when the chase was too near to him he had another place, a cave in 
the hill that neither deer nor eagle could come at. 

"A day of the days, on an early morning of summer, he was living 
lightly in his castle, and he put his head out and what should he see 
but the guard right over against him. Terror seized him that he should 

From The Western Island, or The Great Blasket, by Robin Flower, pp. 86-90. 
Copyright, 1945, by Oxford University Press, New York, Inc. 

230 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

be out so early in the morning, and he had no time to think of a shift. 
He said to himself that the best thing he could do was to yield himself 
up to them and take things easily. He told their captain that, if it was 
he they wanted, he was well pleased to go with them, for he had been 
too long on his keeping, escaping from them, and he would rather go 
with them to suffer all they could do to him than live the life he had 
been living any longer. They were pleased enough, for they had 
thought he would fall to fighting with them as he had done often 
enough before. They agreed together, and Pierce said to them that 
maybe they had been out and about without food and drink too long, 
and that he would give orders for dinner to be made ready for them, 
if they wished. The captain said it was so and they had good need of it. 
Pierce told the girl to get dinner ready, and he bade them come along 
with him to the crest of the hill, where they might have a fine view 
while the dinner was preparing. He told them to throw away their 
guns and not to be bothered carrying them. Finding him fine and easy 
in the morning, they were fine and easy with him, too, and did what- 
ever he told them. They threw aside their guns, and before they went 
to the hill, Pierce spoke aside to the girl and told her not to spare 
water on the guns when they were out of sight. This girl Pierce had 
was no fool, for if she had been he wouldn't have had her. 

"Off they went, they climbed the hill and they spent a good time 
walking on the hill till they thought it was time for the dinner to be 
ready. Then they turned back to the castle. When they were drawing 
near to it, Pierce said he would go in front, for the way in was rather 
troublesome. So he went in before them, and when he was inside 
there was a corner of the castle above the cliff with only room for one 
man at a time to go the way. The next man wouldn't know where- 
abouts in the castle the man in front would have stopped. When the 
first man came by the corner where Pierce was, Pierce thrust at him 
with a piece of wood and with that thrust sent him down the cliff, and 
the next man after him, and so with all who came in to the last man, 
none of them knowing where the man before had gone, till there were 
fifty men lying in the creek, dead corpses in a heap. Pierce did well 
that day, but he wouldn't have been so comfortable in his castle if he 
had known that the pursuit was so near upon his heels." 

"Well," said I, as the tale ended, "that was a bad day for the 

"It was so," said he, "but it would have been as bad a day for 
Pierce if he hadn't had his wits about him." 

"And have you any tale," I said, "of Pierce's cave back in the hill?" 

"Yes," he answered, "it was there that he made his verse of poetry." 

Ireland Without Leaders 231 

"And what verse was that?" 

"Wait and you will hear it in its right place in the tale. For every 
tale has its order, and it's a poor story-teller that would put the end 
before the beginning." 

"Follow on with you then," said I, "and I will wait for the verse to 
the end." 

"Well, whenever Pierce felt the pursuit coming too close to him he 
would fly to this cave that was in the steepest and the worst cliff in 
the Island. There's many a man in the Island to-day that couldn't 
walk in the place where it is. However, he was often lonely in it in 
days of storm and wild weather. The great sea would come up to it, 
and he could hear the noise of the swell roaring below it. The place 
where this cave is is a great wide flagstone, with a hole going into it 
below, and a fine uneven space within. Six feet from it there was a 
great gush of spring water running down very convenient for him. 
There was a constant drip falling from the middle of the stone that 
roofed it, and it was always a marvel to him why that drip should be 
in the heart of the stone while all the rest of the cave was as dry as 
a fox's earth. A day of the days he was lying his length in it and this 
drip fell down on him, and he made this verse that follows: 

" 'Hast Thou no pity, O God, that I lie this way, 

Lonely and cold, and hardly I see the day; 

The drip from the heart of the stone never stilled in my ear, 

And the voice of the sea at my feet ever echoing near?" 

I wrote down the verse, leaving the tale to be recorded at another 
time. The day of which I speak was in the spring of the year. The 
turf had been cut and laid out to dry on the slope of the hill, and wai 
now ready to be built into a rick. Tomas rose, and going to the dresser 
at the bottom of the kitchen by the door poured out a glass of milk 
for me. I drank it, and we went out together into the warm sun of 
midday. Up through the village we climbed at the slow Island pace. 
For nobody ever hurries there, the leisurely amble of the ruminating 
donkeys setting the pace for the deliberative activities of the day. 

Tomas's rick lies but a little way round the shoulder of the hill, and 
arrived there, I sat upon a broad stone fallen from the base of the 
rick, while he built up the turf from the little piles of sods upended 
against one another, which covered the ground. 

Long practice has made all the actions of the Island economy uncon- 
scious, and his hands worked lightly and certainly of themselves, while 
his mind and his talk still dwelt upon Pierce Ferriter and his wild 
doings. For in the people's tradition Pierce had degenerated strangely 

232 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

from the gallant figure of history, the poet chieftain whose memory 
stands out with a kind of heroic grace from the turbulent background 
of the wars of '41. His poems are a strange blend of the laments and 
eulogies and satires of the Irish tradition and the love-lyrics of the 
European fashion, strangely transmuted by the alchemy of the Irish 
mind, which in translating never leaves anything as it finds it, but 
mixes inevitably a strong infusion of the native idiom and vision with 
whatever foreign matter comes its way. His deeds are written in the 
melancholy history of the seventeenth century: 

He lived a life of stun and strife 
And died by treachery. 

All this is changed once more in the simple tradition of the country- 
side. His actual poems arc for the most part forgotten, though frag- 
ments are remembered here and there, and I have been told that even 
in far Donegal one of his poems has been in our day taken down 
from living lips. But for the most part he has become a center for the 
drifting verses which have no discoverable father, and many of his 
actions, too, have decorated other heroes before the powerful magic 
of his personality drew them to himself. He has become the typical 
"man on his keeping," the hero of a hundred evasions, a fellow of 
infinite resource and wile, always giving the slip to the noose which 
hangs waiting for him, and which will have him in the end. But, when 
the end comes — the gallows on the Hill of the Sheep in Killarney — his 
gay gallantry (lashes out at the last, and he flings away his hope of life 
on a point of honor. A priest had given him, the tale goes, a fragment 
of the consecrated wafer, and promised him that while he held the 
holy bread under his tongue he would not die. Thrice they made to 
hang him, but thrice the rope broke. By the law of the gallows he was 
now free, but as he went away a sudden thought came to him. "I will 
never live," he cried, "to be called the leavings of a rope," and he 
turned back, and spitting out the charmed fragment, he submitted his 
neck again, and now for the last time, to the strangling noose. 

The Rapparees 

Righ Shemus he has gone to France and left his crown behind; 

Bad luck be theirs, both night and day, putting running in his mind; 

A peasant ballad of 1691, by Charles Gavan DufTy. In Ballad Poetry of Ireland, 
pp. 203-205. Ford's National Library. New York. 1880. 

Ireland Without Leaders 233 

Lord Lucan followed after with his Slashers brave and true, 

And now the doleful keen is raised — "What will poor Ireland do? 

What must poor Ireland do? 

Our luck," they say, "has gone to France — what can poor Ireland do?" 

Ohl Never fear for Ireland, for she has sojers still. 

For Rory's boys are in the wood and Remy's on the hill; 

And never had poor Ireland more loyal hearts than these — 

May God be kind and good to them, the faithful Rapparees — 

The fearless Rappareesl 

The jewel were you, Rory, with your Irish Rappareesl 

Oh, black's your heart, Clan Oliver, and colder than the clayl 

Oh, high's your head, Clan Sassanach since Sarsfield's gone away! 

It's little love you bear to us, for the sake of long ago— 

But hold your hand, for Ireland still can strike a deadly blow — 

Can strike a mortal blow — 

Och, dar-a-Criost, 'tis she can still, 

Can strike a deadly blow. 

The Master's bawn, the Master's seat, a surly bodach fills; 

The Master's son, an outlawed man, is riding on the hills. 

But, God be praised, that round him throng as thick as summer bees, 

The swords that guarded Limerick's wall — his faithful Rapparees! 

His loving Rappareesl 

Who dare say "No" to Rory Oge, with all his Rappareesl 

Black Billy Grimes of Latnamard, he racked us long and sore — 
God rest the faithful hearts he broke! — we'll never see them more. 
But I'll go bail he'll break no more while Trugh has gallows trees; 
For why? he met one lonely night, the fearless Rapparees — 
The angry Rappareesl 
They never sin no more, my boys, who cross the Rappareesl 

Now Sassanach and Cromweller, take heed of what I say — 

Keep down your black and angry looks that scorn us night and day; 

For there's a just and wrathful judge that every action sees, 

And He'll make strong to right our wrong the faithful Rapparees! 

The men who rode by Sarsfield's side, the roving Rapparees! 

234 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

Turlough O'Carolan 

There can perhaps be no greater entertainment than to compare 
the rude Celtic simplicity with modern refinement. Books, however, 
seem incapable of furnishing the parallel; and to be acquainted with 
the ancient manners of our own ancestors, we should endeavour to 
look for their remains in those countries which, being in more measure 
retired from an intercourse with other nations, are still untinctured 
with foreign refinement, language, or breeding. 

The Irish will satisfy curiosity in this respect preferably to all other 
nations I have known. They in several parts of the country adhere 
to their ancient language, dress, furniture, and superstitions; several 
customs exist among them that still speak their original; and in some 
respects Caesar's description of the ancient Britons is applicable to 

Their bards, in particular, are still held in great veneration among 
them; those traditional heralds are invited to every funeral, in order 
to fill up the intervals of the lament with their songs and harps. In 
these they rehearse the actions of the ancestors of the deceased, be- 
wail the bondage of their country under the English government, and 
generally conclude with advising the young men and maidens to make 
the best use of their time, for they will soon, for all their present bloom, 
be stretched under the table, like the dead body before them. 

Of all the bards the country ever produced, the last and the greatest 
was Carolan the Blind. He was at once a poet, a musician, a composer, 
and sung his own verses to his harp. The original natives never men- 
tion his name without rapture; both his poetry and his music they 
have by heart. . . . His songs in general may be compared with those 
of Pindar, as they have frequently the same flights of imagination; 
they are composed merely to flatter some man of fortune upon some 
excellence of his stable, as in Pindar, another for his hospitality, a 
third for the beauty of his wife and children, and a fourth for the 
antiquity of his family. Whenever any of the original natives of dis- 
tinction were assembled at feasting or reveling, Carolan was generally 

O'Carolan was born in 1670 and died in 1738. He was an accomplished harpist, 
composed in a new style, wrote poetry that is elegant and graceful, not rhapsodic In 
the bardic style. Oliver Goldsmith, who wrote this piece (Essay XX) about him 
could not have known him, as O'Carolan died when Goldsmith was ten years of age. 
But it is likely that his family had been in houses that the popular poet and 
musician freouented. 

Ireland Without Leaders 235 

there, where he was always ready with his harp to celebrate their 
praises. He seemed by nature formed for his profession; for as he was 
born blind, so also he was possessed of a most astonishing memory, 
and a facetious turn of thinking, which gave his entertainers infinite 
satisfaction. Being once at the house of an Irish nobleman where there 
was a musician present who was eminent in his profession, Carolan 
immediately challenged him to a trial of skill. To carry the jest for- 
ward, his lordship persuaded the musician to accept the challenge, and 
he accordingly played over on his fiddle the whole piece after him, 
without missing a note, though he had never heard it before; which 
produced some surprise; but their astonishment increased when he 
assured them he could make a concerto in the same taste himself, 
which he instantly composed; and that with such spirit and elegance, 
that we may compare (for we have it still) with the finest compositions 
of Italy. 

His death was not more remarkable than his life. Homer was never 
more fond of a glass than lie; he would drink whole pints of Usque- 
baugh,* and, as he used to think, without any ill consequence. His 
intemperance, however, in this respect, brought on an incurable dis- 
order; and when just at the point of death, he called for a cup of his 
beloved liquor. Those who were standing round him, surprised at the 
demand, endeavoured to persuade him to the contrary; but he per- 
sisted, and, when the bowl was brought him, attempted to drink, but 
could not; wherefore, giving away the bowl, he observed with a smile 
that it would be hard if two such friends as he and the cup should 
part at least without kissing; and then he expired. 

O'Carolan's Address to Cian O'Hara's Cup 

Were I west in green Arran, 
Or south in Glanmore, 
Where the long ships come laden 
With claret in store; 

• Uisgc batha: The water of life: the word "whiskey" is a corruption of it. 

From Lays of the Western Gael and Other Poems, translated by Sir Samuel Fergu- 
son, p. 150. Sealy, Bryert & Walker. Dublin. 1897. 

236 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

Yet I'd rather than shiploads 
Of claret, and ships, 
Have your white cup, O'Hara, 
Up full at my lips. 

But why seek in numbers 

Its virtues to tell, 

When O'Hara's own chaplain 

Has said, saying well — 

"Turlough, bold son of Brian, 

Sit ye down, boy, again, 

Till we drain the great cupaun 

In another health to Cian." 

Costello and the Fair Oona 

I do not think that there is any love song more widely spread 
throughout the country and more common in the mouth of the people 
than the poem which Tumaus Loidher (strong Thomas) Costello, or 
Coisdealbhach (foot-shaped?), as the name is often written, composed 
over the unfortunate and handsome girl Una MacDermott, to whom 
he had given love. There was no man in Ireland in his time of greater 
strength and activity than this Tumaus, and that was why he got 
his nick-name of Tumaus Loidher. The Shanachies used never to be 
tired of telling wonderful stories about him. He lived in the time of 
Charles II, I think, and his people had much land, but after Cromwell's 
coming to Ireland they lost the greater portion of it, and it came 
into the possession of the Dillons in the counties Sligo and Mayo. 
This Tumaus Loidher was that quick that he would overtake a three- 
year-old colt that never had been bridled, and he was that strong 
that as often as ever he got a hold of his mane he would hold him, 
without allowing him to get away. They say that this was the first 
great deed that he performed: When he was a boy growing up, 
about seventeen years of age, there came a champion or bully to the 
town of Sligo, and he put a challenge under (i.e. challenged) the whole 
county, looking for a man who would go to wrestle or contend with 
him. The custom which they had at that time was, that the city 
into which a champion of this sort would come, was obliged to sup- 

From Amhrain Gradh Chuige Connacht, The Love Songs of Connacht, translated 
by Douglas Hyde, pp. 47-61. Gill & Son, Ltd. Dublin. 1905. 

Ireland Without Leaders 237 

port and maintain the champion until they could find another man 
who would beat him at wrestling. 

The day came when the whole county gathered together to Sligo 
to see was there any man who would go wrestling with the champion, 
and Costello's father's brother was going there likewise. Tumaus 
asked him to allow him to go with him, and after long entreaty he 
gave him leave. When they came to Sligo there were multitudes 
there before them, and they went out on the lawn or meadow where 
the champion was. Everyone who was going wrestling with him he 
used to be throwing him and hurling him on the ground, and there 
was no man able to stand before him. Young Costello's uncle saw 
Tumaus quivering and boiling. "What's on you?" (What's the mat- 
ter with you?) says he. "Ora," says he, "let me go to wrestle with 
him." "You great fool," says the uncle to him, "what's that you're 
saying? Do you want the champion to kill you?" "He won't kill me," 
says the lad; "I am stronger than he." "Let me feel your arms," says 
the old man. Tumaus stretched them out, and the muscles that were 
in them were as firm and hard as iron. The lad was beseeching the 
old man, and asking permission of him until he was tired at last, 
and gave him permission to go fight with the champion. There was 
no other man coming forward at this time, for the champion had 
beaten them all, as many as went wrestling with him. and the other 
people were afraid. Costello stood out then and said, "I'll go wrestling 
with you." The champion laughed when he saw the young gossoon 
going out against him, and he said, "If you're wise, little gossoon, 
you will stay where you are, and you won't come fighting with me." 
"I'll do my best with you, anyhow," says Tumaus. 

Now this was the way it was customary with them to make a 
wrestling at this time; that was, to bind a girdle or belt of leather 
round about the body of the two men, and to give each man of them a 
hold on the other man's belt, and when they would be ready and the 
word would be given them they would begin wrestling. When the great 
multitude saw the belt going on young Tumaus, they cried out not to 
let him go fight, for they were afraid he would be killed, for this 
champion killed a good many people before that, and they thought 
there was no likelihood that a soft young boy like Tumaus would bring 
his life away from him; but Tumaus would not listen to them, for he 
felt himself that he was stronger than the people thought. The old 
uncle was shedding tears when he saw that it was no good for him to 
be talking to him. 

The leather belt went on him then, and the champion got a firm 

238 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

hold of it, and he got a good hold of his enemy's belt. The order 
was then given them to begin on one another. When he got the word 
Tumaus suddenly drew in his two hands that were fastened in his 
enemy's belt towards himself, but the champion never put a stir out 
of himself. Tumaus got a leverage on him and gave him the second 
squeeze, but the enemy did not stir. "Dear uncle," said Tumaus, 
"what's on this man that he is not wrestling with me; loose him from 
me till we see?" Then the people came up and they loosed the hands of 
the champion from the belt where they were fastened, and on the spot 
the man fell back, and he cold dead; his back-bone had been broken 
with the first squeeze that Tumaus gave him. 

That was the first hero-feat that Tumaus ever performed, and he 
himself understood then that he was stronger than other people. A 
smith bet with him one day that he would make four horseshoes 
which he would neither bend nor straighten, but that he must put 
the four shoes together when trying to bend them. What did the 
smith do but put steel into them in place of iron. Tumaus came, and 
he took the shoes in his hand, and he gave them a squeeze; but he 
never stirred them. He gave them the second squeeze, but there was 
no good for him in it. "By my hand, then," says he, "it's well you 
made them. I must take off my cotamore (great coat) to it." He threw 
the cotamore off him and he gave them the third tightening, but he 
could not bend them, because it was steel was in it; however, he made 
pieces of them in his two hands as if they were glass. The smith was 
standing at the door, as he was afraid that the shoes might break, al- 
though it was an impossibility, as it seemed to him; but as soon as he 
saw them breaking, out with him, and he pulled the door after him. 
Then Costello took a flame of wrath when he saw the trick the smith 
played him, and he turned round and hurled the pieces of steel that 
were in his hand out after the smith, and he flung them with such 
strength that he drove them out like bullets through the door. 

The old people have, or they had fifteen years ago, so many stories 
about the adventures and deeds of Tumaus Loidher, that were I to 
begin on them, and were I able to tell them as 1 heard them, I would 
never cease telling of them, and for that reason I shall only speak here 
of the occasion on which he composed the poem I am about to give on 
Una* MacDermott. 

Una gave him love, and he gave love to Una. The Costello was not 
rich, but MacDermott had much riches and land, and he ordered his 

• Una is pronounced "Oona" not "Yewna" as so many people now call it. Thii 
beautiful nauve name is now seldom heard. — D. H. 

Ireland Without Leaders 239 

daughter Una not to be talking or conversing with Tumaus Loidher, 
because he never would allow her to marry him. There was another 
man in it who was richer than the Costello, and he desired that she 
should marry this man. When he thought, at last, that his daughter's 
will was sufficiently broken and bent by him, he made a great colla- 
tion, or feast, and sent an invitation to the gentlemen of the whole 
county, and Tumaus Loidher was among them. When the dinner was 
finished they began drinking healths, and MacDermott said to his 
daughter: "Stand up and drink the health of that person whom you 
like best in this company," because he thought she would drink the 
health of that wealthy man he had laid out for her as a consort. She 
took the glass and stood up, and drank a drink on Tumaus Loidher 
Costello. When the father saw her doing that anger came upon him. 
and he struck her a blow of his palm on the side of the head. She 
was ashamed, and tears came into her eyes, but she was too high- 
spirited to let the people see that she was crying at the blow her 
father gave her, and she lifted a snuff-box and put a pinch of it to 
her nose, letting on that it was the strong snuff that knocked the 
tears out of her. Tumaus Loidher left the room upon the spot. It 
was anent the occurrence that happened there, that he spake this rann 
amongst many others — 

Is it not courteously the child of the white breasts said it, 
Wringing her two hands and smoothing her fingers, 
Putting a shadow upon the reason, and she in pain, 
And bitter destruction on itl it was a strong snuff. 

After that Una MacDermott was stricken sick with the love she gave 
him, and she was getting no relief or cure at all from anything, and she 
was so bad at last that she was not able to leave her bed. Then, and 
not till then, MacDermott gave her leave to call to herself the Costello. 
Una sent for him, and he came, and they guided him to Una's cham- 
ber, and her soul came again to her with satisfaction of mind when 
she saw him. The joy that was on her at seeing him did her so much 
good that she at last fell into a pleasant quiet sleep, the first sleep 
she had got for months, and he sitting beside her bed, and she holding 
his hand in her own hand. He sat there for a good while, but as she 
was not awaking and as he was loath to be remaining there, he loosed 
his hand out of her hand, and went out of the room and down the 
stairs. He found nobody at all in the house, and he was ashamed to 
remain in it by himself. He called to his servant to saddle the horse 
and be going. He then got on his horse and rode slowly, slowly, from 

240 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

the house, thinking every moment that he would be sent for, and that 
they would ask him to return; accordingly, he remained near the 
house, but there was no messenger coming to call him back. His 
servant was tired waiting for him to go on, and he thought it long 
the time that his master was riding without going far from the house. 
He began to say to his master that MacDermott's people were only 
humbugging him, and he put it into his head that they were doing 
an act of treachery on him. Costello did not at first believe that it was 
so, but when no one was coming to him, while the servant kept con- 
tinually putting this suspicion into his head, he began, himself, to 
believe it, and took his vow and oath by God and Mary that he would 
never again turn back and never speak a word to Una or one of 
MacDermott's people unless he should be called back before he went 
across the ford of the little river, the Donogue. When he did go into 
the river he would not go across it, and he remained in the water for 
half an hour or more, ever hoping that a messenger might come after 
him. Then the servant began to revile him: "I think it a great wonder," 
he said, "for a gentleman like you to be cooYmg in this water for any 
woman at all in the great world; is it not small your pride, to endure a 
disgrace like that?" "That's true for you," said the Costello, and he 
drove his horse up upon the bank. Scarcely was he up on the dry 
ground when there came a messenger after him in a full run from Una, 
calling to him to come back to her quickly; but the Costello would 
not break his vow, and he did not return. After Costello's going from 
her, Una did not awake for an exceedingly long time. On awaking of 
her at last, airy and light, the first thing she did was to send for the 
Costello, but he was gone. She frightened at that, and sent a messenger 
after him, but the messenger did not come up with him in time. 
Costello took then a flame of anger and struck a fist upon the servant 
who gave him the bad advice, so that he killed him of that blow. 

It was not long after this that grief and melancholy preyed so 
much upon Una that she withered away and found death. Nothing 
at all that was on the world could give any comfort to the Costello 
after that. Una was buried in a little island in the middle of Lough 
C6, and Costello came to the brink of the lake the night after her 
burial and swam out to the island, and threw himself down upon 
her grave, and put the night past, watching and weeping over her 
head. He did the same thing the second night; he came the third and 
spake above her grave, as I heard it — 

Ireland Without Leaders 241 

"O fair-haired Una, ugly is the lying that is upon you, 
On a bed narrow and high among the thousand corpses, 
If you do not come and give me a token (?), O stately woman, who 

was ever without a fault, 
I shall not come to this place for ever, but last night and to-night." 

Or, as I found this stanza in a very ill-written manuscript, the only 
one in which I ever did find it: 

"Unless thou givest me thy hand, O stately woman who did no 

My shadow shall not be seen upon this street for ever but to-night." 

No sooner did he say that than he felt Una rising up, and striking 
a light blow of her palm upon his cheek, and he heard a voice like 
Una's, saying, "Come not," and he then departed satisfied, without 
returning for ever. 

The rest of the life of Tomaus Loidher was as wonderful as this 
story, and the old people in the Counties Roscommon and Sligo used 
to have as many stories about him as would keep a person listening 
to them for an entire night, but I did not collect them all when I was 
able, and now I cannot find them. He found death at last. There 
was a man of the Ruanes, and the Dillons promised him a reward if 
he would kill him, and he loosed a bullet at him from behind a turf 
clamp and killed him. He was lying for three days on the ground 
without any person to take him up, for they were afraid of him. On 
account of this deed the Costellos who came after him would not 
allow any man of the name of Ruane to live on their estate. But some 
say that it was his brother, Dooaltagh, or Dudley, the dim-eyed, who 
died in this manner. 

I shall now give the stanzas which the Costello made about Una 
MacDermott as I heard them from many people. The country people 
say that they are in "cramp-Irish," and that there was never yet found 
a piper or a fiddler to play them on the pipes or the fiddle! There 
are a great many stanzas in the poem, but I never got the whole of 
them or the half. I heard these stories about Tomaus Loidher from 
Shamus O'Hart, from Walter Scurlogue (or Sherlock), both of them 
dead now, and from Martin O'Brennan, or Brannan, in the County 
Roscommon, but I got some of the verses from a man in the island 
of Achill who had never heard any talk about Tomaus Loidher. 

When he died he was buried, as he himself directed, in the same 
grave-yard and island in which Una was buried, and there grew an 

242 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

ash-tree out of Una's grave and another tree out of the grave of 
Costello, and they inclined towards one another, and they did not 
cease from growing until the two tops were met and bent upon one 
another in the middle *f the graveyard, and people who saw them 
said they were lhat way still, but I was lately on the brink of Lough 
Ce and could not see them. I was not, however, on the island. 

Fair Una 

O fair Una, thou blossom of the amber locks, 
Thou who art after thy death from the result of ill counsel, 
See, O love, which of them was the best of the two counsels, 
O bird in a cage, and I in the ford of the Donogue. 

O fair Una, thou has left me in grief twisted, 

And why shouldst thou like to be recounting it any more for ever? 

Ringleted cooleen upon which grew up the melted gold, 

And sure I would rather be sitting beside thee than the giory of heaven. 

O fair Una, said he, of the crooked skiffs(?) 

And the two eyes you have the mildest that ever went in a head, 
O little mouth of the sugar, like new milk, like wine, like b'yore, 
And O pretty active foot, it is you would walk without pain in a shoe! 

O fair Una, like a rose in a garden you, 

And like a candlestick of gold you were on the table of a queen, 
Melodious and musical you were going this road before me, 
And it is my sorrowful morning-spoil that you were not married to 
your dark love. 

O fair Una, it is you who have set astray my senses; 

O Una, it is you who went close in between me and God, 

O Una, fragrant branch, twisted little curl of the ringlets, 

Was it not better for me to be without eyes than ever to have seen you? 

It's wet and cold was my visit to the village last night, 
And I sitting up on the brink of the couch by myself' 
O brightness without gloom, to whom the many were not betrothed 
but [only] I, 

Wherefore proclaimest thou not the cold of the morning to myself. 

There are people in this world who throw disrepect upon an empty 

Ireland Without Leaders 243 

[Having] a quantity of worldly good [themselves], though they have 

them not lastingly, 
Complaint over [lack of] goods or lament for land I would not make; 
I would rather than two sheep if I had Una (i.e. "a lamb," a play on 

the word). 

I found the following four stanzas in a bad manuscript in which 
were only a few of the above verses. I never heard these other four 
myself. It is plain it was not the Costello who made the last one of 
them, at all events. 

Stand ye and look ye is my very love a-coming, 

She is like a ball of snow and like bee's honey which the sun would 

Like a ball of snow and like bee's honey the sun would freeze; 
And my portion (i.e. my love) and my friend, it is long that I am 

alive after you. 

O Una, O friend, and O golden tooth, 

little mouth of honey that never uttered injustice, 

1 had rather be beside her on a couch, ever kissing her, 
Than be sitting in heaven in the chair of the Trinity. 

I passed through the byre of my friends last night; 

I never got any refreshment or [even] the wetting of my mouth. 

'Twas what the frowning high-shouldered (?) girl said, and madder on 

her fingers, 
"My three pities that it was not in a solitude I met yourself." 

Four Unas, four Annies, four Marys and four Noras, 

The four women, the four finest were in the four quarters of Fola 

Four nails and four saws to four boards of coffin, 
Four hates on the four women who would not give their four loves 

off their four kisses. 

The Truth about Fontenoy 

Of late years doubts have been expressed as to the extent of the 
participation of the Irish Brigade in the battle of Fontenoy, and it 

From "The Irish Brigade at Fontenoy," by Sir Charles Peine, in The Irish Sword, 
the Journal of the Military Historical Society of Ireland, Vol. I (1951-52) , pp. 166- 
172. Dublin, 

244 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

may not be uninteresting to reexamine the problem in the light of a 
recent visit to the battlefield. 

First of all, there is the traditional view of Fontenoy, namely that the 
charge of the Irish Brigade at a critical moment saved the day for 
France. ' 

What is more, this interpretation has very substantial backing for 
the first thing that Louis XV did when the British and Hanoverian 
column had been driven from the field was to ride down the Irish 
lines and tell the troops that he owed the victory to them. 

Then there is the testimony of the French commander-in-chief him- 
self, the Marechal de Saxe, for immediately after the battle he wrote in 
a private letter, 'The Irish Brigade, which was in front, behaved as 
bravely as possible." Lastly, there is the fact that the only English 
colour taken on this occasion was captured by Sergeant Wheelock of 
Bulkeley's Regiment. 

More recently, however, contrary opinions have been expressed, and 
they are summed up in the latest edition of Chambers's Encyclopaedia 
where it is stated, "A legend arose that the Irish Brigade saved the 
situation for France. This is incorrect: the credit is due to the 
Regiment Normandie under Lowendahl." 

Clearly, therefore, the authorities are divided, and it will be well in 
the interest of historical truth to find out which view is correct, if that 
be possible. 

The fighting took place on Tuesday, May 11th, 1745, and it was one 
of the engagements in the War of the Austrian Succession. 

The campaign of 1745 saw the French in the field early, and their 
first act was to lay siege to Tournai. The English and Dutch set out 
to relieve the town, and the French waited for them on the plateau 
at Fontenoy. 

Both armies were between 50,000 and 60,000 strong, and if there was 
a slight advantage in numbers it was in favour of the French. Louis 
XV was in the field with his troops, but the commander-in-chief was 
Marshal de Saxe, the greatest soldier of the day. He was at this date 
only forty-nine years old, but his health was none too good, and 
throughout the battle of Fontenoy he was in considerable physical 

The Irish Brigade was serving with the French army, and it consisted 
of the regiments of Clare, Ruth, Lally, Berwick, Dillon and Bulkeley, 
amounting to a total strength of 3,870. There was also one Irish 
cavalry regiment, namely Fitz-James's. 

On the other side were what for the sake of convenience may be 
described as the Allies, and they were a composite force of English, 

Ireland Without Leaders 245 

Hanoverians, Dutch, and Austrians in varying proportions. The Eng- 
lish troops represented the flower of the British army, and included the 
Brigade of Guards. This mixed force was commanded by a young man 
of twenty-four, the Duke of Cumberland, a younger son of George II. 
Cumberland seems to have stumbled on the French position with- 
out realising how strong it really was. On the other hand, de Saxe 
was perfectly informed about everything that the Allies were doing. 
In consequence he was able to compel his enemies to fight on ground 
of his own choosing, where he was ready to receive them. 

Tournai was effectively masked with a force of 21,000 men, and with 
the French field army de Saxe took up position on a cultivated plateau 
five miles to the south-west of the beleaguered town. 

In the centre of de Saxe's line was the village of Fontenoy, while his 
left rested on Barri wood and his right on Antoing and the Scheldt. 
Both Fontenoy and Antoing were strongly fortified. 

The French position having been selected in this way, de Saxe pro- 
ceeded to strengthen it with a number of redoubts which were to prove 
one of the decisive factors in the battle. 

The reason he adopted this course was his belief that French in- 
fantry could not be relied upon to meet a hostile charge in line. 

The French reserves were on the left flank, covered by Barri wood. 
In the first line of these reserves were the six regiments of the Irish 
Brigade; to the left of them were the Regiments Royal Corse and Nor- 
mandie, and to the right was Royal Vaisseaux. 

Behind the Irish were the Regiments Hainault, Royal Infanterie, 
Soissonais, and La Couronne, and behind them again two lines of 
cavalry regiments, the extreme left being occupied by the Carabiniers. 
On the night of May 10th a strong enemy reconnaissance drove the 
French outposts back in the centre, and de Saxe was compelled to burn 
and evacuate a group of cottages about half-a-mile from Fontenoy. 

Some squadrons of Dutch cavalry also deployed on the French right 
flank, but these incidents had no real effect upon de Saxe's dispositions, 
especially as Cumberland made no effort to occupy Barri wood, an 
omission which was to cost him very dear on the following day. By 
night every French unit was in position, and the King and the Dauphin 
rode down the lines to deafening shouts of "Vive le Roi." 

The battle may be said to have begun at six o'clock on the morning 
of the 11th with a half-hearted attempt by the British to capture Barri 
wood, which by this time was firmly held by the French; but it was 
repulsed without any great difficulty. 

In another part of the field the Dutch attacked Fontenoy and 
Antoing, but they had not taken the trouble to reconnoitre their 

246 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

objectives, which were hidden from them by the nature of the ground, 
and so they were quite unaware of the immense strength of the posi- 
tions they were assaulting. Accordingly, the attackers were greeted 
with a terrific discharge of grape-shot and musketry, which soon 
proved to be more than they could stand. 

By 1 1 o'clock in the morning the position thus was that the Allied 
assaults had failed miserably. Cumberland, therefore, had the choice 
of beating an ignominous retreat or of making a frontal attack on the 
French lines. He decided to make the frontal attack, but to combine it 
with another Dutch attempt on Fontenoy. 

The Dutch on this occasion were supported by two English bat- 
talions, but all the same they were again repulsed with heavy loss. 

Cumberland then gave the order to advance; he took his place at the 
head of the first line, though as commander-in-chief it would have been 
more convenient had he been in a position to observe the progress of 
the battle as a whole. Sixteen thousand men, the flower of the British 
army, began to move forward up the slope to Fontenoy, raked by a 
murderous fire from the French redoubts. 

Whole ranks were swept away, but still the dense mass continued to 
press forward over the heaps of dead and dying, while the sergeants 
dressed the ranks with their long halberds as if they were on parade. 

It was without question one of the most memorable feats of valour 
in military history, for in spite of the terrible flanking fire from the 
redoubts, and of the efforts of one French regiment after another, the 
British moved steadily on, until they stood proudly in the centre of the 
French position, apparently masters of the battlefield. 

Up to this moment the Irish Brigade as a whole had not been en- 
gaged, though for some unexplained reason the Dillon Regiment had 
been detached from it, and ordered to charge in company with Nor- 
mandie and Royal Vaisseaux. 

Irish valour, however, in this instance was unavailing, and the Dillon 
Regiment would seem to have suffered substantial casualties. 

The battle had thus reached a stage in which victory would clearly 
incline to the side which displayed the greater initiative, and it soon 
transpired that this would not be the Allies. The garrison of Tournai 
remained quiescent, though an effective diversion might have been 
made: while the Dutch on the left gave no sign. 

As for Cumberland, although his men were temporary masters of 
the battlefield, he himself seems to have lost control of the battle, prob- 
ably because he was too far in front to see it as a whole. All he did was 
to order the cavalry to come to his assistance, a step which he should 
have taken much earlier in the day. 

Ireland Without Leaders 247 

The Allied horse accordingly advanced but the fire from the re- 
doubts was too much for the Austrians and Dutch, who thereupon 
bolted. This threw the English cavalry into confusion; and though 
they rallied in due course, they were soon hurled back again by an- 
other tide of fugitives. 

Eventually some useful work was done by three regiments, namely 
the Blues, the Scots Greys, and the Royals, but the hour for useful 
cooperation was past, and the cavalry effected little in support of the 
advance of the infantry. 

Such being the case, if any initiative was to come it must clearly be 
from the French, and they did not prove wanting. The guns were duly 
brought up, and a salvo of grape-shot cut lanes in the solid mass of 
human flesh which was the Allied column. 

There was naturally some confusion in the British ranks, and de 
Saxe saw his chance. He ordered not only Dillon's Regiment, but 
Normandie and Royal Vaisseaux, to charge again, and he threw in the 
other five still fresh regiments of the Irish Brigade. 

They attacked the British right flank, while the Gardes Francaises 
and Suisses, together with a number of line regiments, assailed the left 
flank. Finally, the Maison du Roi charged the British front. 

This was too great a concentration of force to be resisted, and the 
British fell back, though at no point did their retreat degenerate into 
anything resembling a rout. 

Such in its main outlines was the battle of Fontenoy and the part 
played by the Irish Brigade. The tribute paid to their behaviour by 
the King of France and Marechal de Saxe has already been quoted, 
and both were in a position to know the truth. The leading English 
authority on the battle, the late Francis Henry Skrine, takes the same 
line in his Fontenoy and the War of the Austrian Succession, where he 
says, "Among French infantry regiments those of the Irish Brigade 
stood first. Their desperate valour was a factor of great importance 
in our disaster." 

In so far as the criticism of the services of the Irish Brigade is honest, 
it probably springs from a confusion between the first charge of the 
Dillon Regiment, with Normandie and Royal Vaisseaux, and the sub- 
sequent charge of the Irish Brigade as a whole. On the earlier occasion, 
as we have seen, the Irish attack was repulsed, while the second on- 
slaught was successful. 

If further testimony is required for the important part played by the 
Irish Brigade, it lies in the rewards which were distributed by King 
Louis XV upon an unprecedented scale. 

The commanding officer of Berwick's Regiment was promoted Brig- 

248 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

adier, and the Lieutenant-Colonels of Bulkeley's and Ruth's were given 
pensions of 1,000 and 600 livres respectively. Crosses of St. Louis were 
distributed lavishly, and wounded officers received gratuities of 200 to 
600 livres. 

Sergeant Wheelock, of Bulkeley's Regiment, was promoted to the 
rank of Second Lieutenant by the King in person on the field of battle 
for his capture of an enemy flag. 

It may be worthy of mention in this connection that one of the 
fruits of the French victory at Fontenoy was the capture of Ghent, 
and in the town was found a vast quantity of British stores. Among 
these was a large amount of cloth, and this was duly made into uni- 
forms for the Irish Brigade. 

The Irish casualties totalled 274 officers, non-commissioned officers, 
and men killed, and 382 wounded, or 656 casualties in all, which was 
a very high proportion indeed of the 3,870 who went into action. 

Fontenoy ranks among the most murderous conflicts of the 18th 
century. In all, the French lost over 7,000 officers and men in killed 
and wounded and this represented a little more than 12 per cent, of 
the total number engaged. The Allied losses were about the same. 

In a sense the Irish Brigade never fully recovered from the War of 
the Austrian Succession, for the losses at Fontenoy and at Laffeldt, two 
years later, were not wholly replaced from Ireland, and in part at any 
rate the strength was brought up to establishment by the inclusion 
of men who were not of Irish origin. 

An Irish Priest Administers the Last Sacrament 
to the King of France 

The Abta Edgeworth belonged to a family, the most famous mem- 
ber of which was Maria (but Maria's remarkable father was famous 
in his day). He was brought up in France where his family (not 
Maria's) emigrated on becoming Catholic. He had a small property in 
Ireland from which came the name he used most in France — "de 
Firmont." After the execution of Louis XVI he was asked to take the 
office of almoner to Louis XVII then living in exile, and during the 
ascendency of Napoleon, he lived with that wandering court in the 
most dreary parts of Europe, an unfitting life for one who wanted to 

Quoted in The Abbi Edgeworth, by M. V. Woodgate, pp. 86-109, 111. Browne & 
Nolan, Ltd. Dublin. 1945. 

Ireland Without Leaders 249 

be an active priest. Through the rascality of his agent he was deprived 
of his property in Ireland and so was left destitute among destitute 
people. While attending liberated prisoners of war he caught jail 
fever, which brought about his death in 1807. A more devoted priest 
and a better Christian than the Abbe Edgeworth, it would be difficult 
to imagine. — P.C. 

I found all the Ministers assembled. Consternation appeared on their 
countenances. As soon as I entered, they arose, and all surrounded me 
with eagerness. The Minister of Justice first addressed me. "Are you," 
said he, "the Citizen Edgeworth de Firmont?" I replied that I was. 
"Louis Capet," continued the Minister, "having expressed to us his 
desire to have you near him at his last moments, we have sent for you 
to know whether you consent to the service he requires of you." I re- 
plied, that since the King had signified his wishes, and named me, it 
became my duty to attend him. "Then," pursued the Minister, "you 
will go with me to the Temple, whither I will conduct you." And 
immediately taking a bundle of papers from the table, he whispered a 
moment to the other Ministers, and going out in haste, ordered me to 
follow him. 

An escort of horse waited for us at the door with the Minister's 
carriage, into which I got and he followed me. At this time all the 
Catholic clergy of Paris were dressed like other citizens, so that I was 
not in clerical dress, but recollecting what I owed to the King, who 
had been accustomed to such costume, and to religion itself, which 
received for the first time a sort of homage from the new government, 
I thought I ought on this occasion to resume the exterior marks of 
my station. At least to make the attempt appeared to me a duty. 
I mentioned it to the Minister before we quitted the Tuileries, but he 
rejected my proposition in terms that prevented my further insisting 
on it, though without using any offensive language towards me. 

Our drive to the Temple passed in gloomy silence. Two or three 
times, however, the Minister made an attempt to break it. He drew 
up the carriage windows and exclaimed, "Great God, with what a 
dreadful commission I am chargedl What a manl" added he, speaking 
of the King. "What resignationl What couragel Nol Human nature 
alone could not give him such fortitude. He possesses something be- 
yond it." Such expressions gave me an excellent opportunity for 
speaking some unwelcome truths, but I hesitated an instant what 
course I should pursue. For I reflected that my first duty was to afford 


A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

the King the religious consolation he had so earnestly desired, and 
that by giving vent to the indignation the conduct of my companion 
and his associates had inspired me with, I should probably be for- 
bidden to approach my royal master. I therefore resolved on absolute 
silence. The Minister seemed to comprehend my motive, and said not 
a word during the remainder of the drive. 

to m'r/^ 3t thC Te u m ? e ' and the fim & te was instantly opened 

L^J ^ reaChCd ^ buUdin S *" Se P arates the court from 
die garden we were stopped; and before we could proceed, it was 
necessary that the commissaries of the tower should come and examTn^ 

Sis fornT Certam ° Ur SS " EVCn *" MinistCr Seemed sub J ect to 

We waited for the commissaries near a quarter of an hour without 

ZTLn ft 0then At kSt *" 3 Pp' ared - ° ne ° f the m f^ 
young man of about seventeen or eighteen and they saluted the Min- 
ister as an acquaintance. He told them in a few words who I was and 

£ e ,n a r Ure £ my m, 1°u HC made a >& to me to foll <™ them, and 
we all together crossed the garden to the tower 

to^rr^ T C bCCamC h01Tible bey ° nd dcs ^iption. The door of the 
noTse 7 7?, ^T^ and VCry loW ' °P ened with a ^rrible 
L Ifilln ,K° a ed , Wlth ir ° n b ° 1U and bars - We P assed trough a 

SL r h^ K gU3rdS im ° 3 StU1 lar S er hal1 ' which a PP ear ed from its 
^ape to have been once a chapel. There the commissaries of the Com- 
mune, who had custody of the King, were assembled and I could not 

l CO u e l "? \ countenances that embarrassment or consternation 
which had struck me in the Ministers. There were about twelve of 
them, mostly in the dress of Jacobins. 

Their air, their manners, their sang-froid all denoted them to be 
men of desperate minds, who did not shrink from contemplation of 
the blackest crimes. 

But in justice I ought to say that this is not a portrait of them all; 
and I thought I could discover some, who had been induced from the 
weakness of their character to associate with the rest. Whatever might 
be their respective feelings, they were all taken indiscriminately by the 
Minister into a corner of the apartment, where he read to them in a 
low voice the papers which he had brought from the Tuilleries. 

fniw'h- K 3d K 0ne 'u he tUrned Suddenl y to me ' and desir ed me to 
follow him, but this the council opposed by acclamation. Again they 
assembled in a corner of the hall, deliberating some time in whispers 
The result was that one-half of the assembly accompanied by the Min- 
ister went upstairs to the King, while the other half remained to guard 

Ireland Without Leaders 251 

When the doors were carefully closed, the oldest of the commissaries 
approached me with a polite but embarrassed air, spoke of the terrible 
responsibility he was under and begged a thousand pardons for the 
liberty he was obliged to take. I guessed that this preamble was to end 
in my being searched, so I anticipated him by saying, that since the 
reputation of M. de Malesherbes could not excuse him from this for- 
mality, I could not flatter myself that when I came to the Temple an 
exception would be made in my favor. I assured him I had nothing 
about me that could be suspected, but added that he was welcome to 
satisfy himself. Notwithstanding this declaration, the search was made 
with rigor. My snuffbox was opened, the snuff examined, and a little 
pencil case, which happened to be found in my pocket, was carefully 
inspected to discover whether it concealed a poignard! 

They paid no attention to any papers I had about me, and finding 
everything else unexceptionable, they renewed the excuses with which 
they had begun, and invited me to sit down; but I had scarcely done 
so, when two of the commissaries, who had gone up to the King, came 
to tell me that I was allowed to see him. They conducted me up a 
winding staircase, which was so narrow that two persons could hardly 
pass each other. At certain intervals barriers were placed across the 
stairs, and at every barrier stood a sentinel. These men were actual 
sans culottes, and almost all drunk. The shouts they made, re-echoing 
through the vaults of the Temple, were quite horrible. 

When we reached the apartment of the King, all the doors of which 
were open, I perceived him in a group of eight or ten persons. It con- 
sisted of the Minister of Justice, accompanied by some members of the 
Commune, who came to read to him the fatal decree, which sentenced 
him to death on the following day. He was calm and tranquil, even 
with an aspect of benignity, while not one of those who surrounded 
him had an air of composure. 

As soon as he saw me, he waved his hand for them to retire. They 
obeyed in silence. He himself shut the door after them, and I found 
myself alone with my sovereign. 

Till this moment I had been able to command the various emotions 
with which I had been agitated; but at the sight of a prince, who had 
been once so great, and who was now so unfortunate, I was no longer 
master of myself. I could not restrain my tears, and I fell at his feet 
without the power of utterance. This touched him more than the 
decree which he had just heard. He answered my tears only by his 
own; but soon resuming all his firmness. "Forgive me," said the King, 
"forgive me, sir, a moment's weakness, if such it can be called. For a 
long time I have lived among enemies, and habit has in some degree 

252 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

familiarized me to them, but when I behold a faithful subject, this is 
to me a new sight, a different language reaches my heart, and in spite 
of my utmost efforts, I am melted." 

Saying these words he kindly raised me from the ground, and let me 
into his closet that he might speak more freely, for from his chamber 
all he said was overheard. This closet or cabinet was built in one of 
the turrets of the Temple. It had neither hangings nor ornament. A 
bad stove served for a fireplace, and the only furniture was one table 
and three leather chairs. There, making me sit down near him, "Now, 
sir," said he, "the great business of my salvation is the only one which 
ought to occupy my thoughts. The only business of real importance! 
What are all other subjects compared to this? This must, however, be 
delayed for a few moments, because my family are coming to take 
leave of me for ever. In the meantime, here is a paper that I wish you 
to read." As he spoke, he drew from his pocket a sealed paper, and 
broke it open. It was his will, which he had made in the month of 
December, at a period when he was uncertain whether any religious 
assistance would be allowed to him in his last moments. 

This most interesting conversation was interrupted by one of the 
commissaries, who came to inform the King that his family were com- 
ing down, and that he was at length permitted to see them. At these 
words he appeared extremely agitated, and he broke from me with 
precipitation. . . . Even I, though shut up in the cabinet where the 
King had left me, could easily distinguish their voices, and I was 
involuntarily in some degree witness to the most touching scene I ever 
heard. It would be impossible for me to describe this agonizing inter- 
view. Not only tears were shed, and sobs heard, but piercing cries, 
which reached the outer courts of the Temple. The King, the Queen, 
Monseigneur the Dauphin, Madame Elizabeth, Madame Royale, all 
bewailed themselves at once, and their voices were confounded. At 
length their tears ceased, for their strength was exhausted. They then 
spoke in a low voice and with some degree of tranquility. 

One thought had strongly weighed upon my mind since I had been 
so near the King. I determined to procure the means of administering 
the Sacrament to his Majesty, at any risk to myself, since he had been 
so long deprived of receiving it. ... I proposed it to him, but though 
he desired it most ardently, he seemed afraid of compromising my 

Ireland Without Leaders 253 

safety. I entreated him to give me his consent, promising that I would 
conduct myself with prudence and discretion. He at length yielded. 
"Go, sir," said he, "but I very much fear you will not succeed, for I 
know the men with whom you have to deal. They will grant nothing 
which they can refuse." 

Fortified by this permission, I desired to be conducted to the hall of 
council, and there I made my demand in the name of the King. The 
proposal, for which the commissaries of the tower were not prepared, 
disconcerted them extremely, and they sought for different pretexts to 
elude it. "How could they find a priest at that hour, and when they 
had got one, how obtain all that was necessary?" "The priest is already 
found," I replied, "for I am he. And as for the rest, the nearest church 
will supply all that is necessary, if you will make the application. You 
will consider that my demand is just, and that it would be against your 
own principles to refuse me." 

One of the commissaries instantly, though rather in guarded terms, 
insinuated that my request was only a snare, and that under the pre- 
tense of giving Communion to the King, I intended to poison him. 
"History has furnished us with examples enough of this kind to make 
us circumspect," said he. I looked steadily in the face of this man and 
replied, "The strict search I underwent as I came in here ought to 
convince you that I do not carry poison. If then to-morrow any is 
found, it must be from you that I shall have received it. All that I 
demand for the celebration of the Mass must pass through your 
hands.". . . A quarter of an hour passed, and I was again brought into 
the chamber, where the President thus addressed me, "Citizen Minister 
of Religion, the council have taken into consideration the request 
that you have made in the name of Louis Capet, and since they deem 
his request conformable to the law, which declares all forms of worship 
are free, they consent to it. Nevertheless, we exact two conditions. The 
first that you draw up instantly an address containing your demand, 
signed by yourself; and the second that your religious ceremonies 
should be conducted by seven o'clock tomorrow at the latest, for at 
eight precisely Louis Capet must set out for the place of execution." 
These last words were said like all the rest with a degree of cold- 
blooded indifference, which characterized an atrocious mind. 

At five o'clock he arose and dressed as usual. Soon after he sent for 
me, and I attended him for near an hour in the cabinet, where he had 
received me the evening before. When I retired, I found an altar com- 

254 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

pletely prepared in the King's apartment. The commissaries had exe- 
cuted to the letter everything I had required of them. They had even 
done more that I had asked, I having only demanded what was indis- 
pensable. The King heard Mass. He knelt on the ground without 
cushion or desk. He then received the Sacrament, after which cere- 
mony I left him for a short time at his prayers. He soon sent for me 
again and I found him seated near the stove where he could scarcely 
warm himself. . . . Morning began to dawn, and the drums sounded 
in all the sections of Paris. An extraordinary movement was heard in 
the tower— it seemed to freeze the blood in my veins. But the Kinij 
more calm than I was, after listening to it for a moment, said to me 
without emotion, " 'Tis probably the National Guard beginning to 
assemble." In a short time detachments of cavalry entered the court of 
the Temple, and the voices of officers and the trampling of horses 
were distinctly heard. The King listened again, and said To me with 
the same composure, "They seem to be approaching.". . . We heard 
another knock at the door-it was to be the last. It was Santerre and 
his crew. The King opened the door as usual. They announced to 
him (I could not hear in what terms) that he must prepare for death. 

I am occupied," he said with an air of authority. "Wait for me In a 
few minutes I will return to you." Then, having shut the door, he 
knelt at my feet. "It is finished, sir," said he. "Give me your last bene- 
diction, and pray that it may please God to support me to the end." 
He soon arose, and leaving the cabinet, advanced towards the 

wretches who were in his bedchamber "Are there amongst you 

any members of the Commune? I charge them to take care of this 
paper." It was his will. One of the party took it from the King. "I rec- 
ommend also to the Commune Clery, my valet de chambre. I can do 
no more than congratulate myself in having had his services. They 
will give him my watch and clothes; not only those I have here, but 
those that have been deposited at the Commune. I also desire that in 
return for the attachment he has shown me, he may be allowed to 
enter into the Queen's— into my wife's— service." He used both expres- 
sions. No one answering, the King cried out in a firm tone, "Let us 
proceed," at which words they all moved on. 

The King crossed the first court, formerly the garden, on foot. He 
turned back once or twice towards the tower, as if to bid adieu to all 
most dear to him on earth; and by his gestures it was plain that he was 
then trying to collect all his strength and firmness. At the entrance 
ot the second court a carriage waited, two gend'armes held the door. 
At the Kings approach one of these men entered first, and placed him- 
self in front. The King followed and placed me at his side. At the 

Ireland Without Leaders 255 

back of the carriage the other gend'arme jumped in last and shut the 
door. . . . The King, finding himself seated in the carriage where he 
could neither speak to me nor be spoken to without witnesses, kept 
a profound silence. I presented him with my breviary, the only book 
I had with me, and he seemed to accept it with pleasure. He appeared 
anxious that I should point out to him the psalms that were most 
suited to his situation, and he recited them attentively with me. The 
gend'armes, without speaking, seemed astonished and confounded at 
the tranquil piety of their monarch to whom they doubtless never had 
approached so near. 

The procession lasted almost two hours. The streets were lined with 
citizens, all armed, some with pikes and some with guns, and the 
carriage was surrounded by a body of troops, formed of the most 
desperate people of Paris. As another precaution they had placed be- 
fore the hones a great number of drums, intended to drown any noise 
or murmur in favor of the King. But how could they be heard? Nobody 
appeared either at the door or windows, and in the streets nothing 
was to be seen but armed citizens. Citizens, all rushing towards the 
commission of a crime, which perhaps they detested in their hearts. . . . 
As soon as the King had left the carriage, three guards surrounded 
him, and would have taken off his clothes, but he repulsed them with 
haughtiness. He undressed himself, untied his neckcloth, opened his 
shirt and arranged it himself. The guards, whom the determined 
countenance of the King had for a moment disconcerted, seemed to 
recover their audacity. They surrounded him again, and would have 
seized his hands. 

"What are you attempting?" said the King, drawing back his hands. 
"To bind you," answered the wretches. "To bind me," said the King 
with an indignant air. "No, I shall never consent to that. Do what you 
have been ordered, but you shall never bind me." The guards insisted. 
They raised their voices, and seemed to wish to call on others to 
assist them. 

Perhaps this was the most terrible moment of this most dreadful 
morning. Another instant, and the best of Kings would have received 
from his rebellious subjects indignities too horrid to mention — indig- 
nities that would have been to him more insupportable than death. 
Such was the feeling expressed in his countenance. Turning towards 
me, he looked at me steadily, as if to ask my advice. Alasl it was impos- 
sible for me to give any, and I only answered by silence. But as he con- 
tinued the fixed look of inquiry, I replied, "Sire, in this new insult, 
I only see another trait of resemblance between your Majesty and the 
Saviour Who is about to recompense you." At these words he raised 

256 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

his eyes to heaven with an expression that can never be described. 
"You are right." he said. "Nothing less than his example should make 
me submit to such degradation." Then, turning to the guards, "Do 
what you will. I will drink of the cup even to the dregs." 

The path leading to the scaffold was extremely rough and difficult 
to pass. The King was obliged to lean on my arm, and from the slow- 
ness with which he proceeded, I feared for a moment that his courage 
might fail. But what was my astonishment, when arrived at the first 
step, I felt that he suddenly let go my arm, and I saw him cross with a 
firm foot the breadth of the whole scaffold, silence by his look alone 
fifteen or twenty drums that were placed opposite to him, and in a 
voice so loud that it must have been heard at the Pont Tournant, I 
heard him pronounce distinctly these memorable words, "I die inno- 
cent of all the crimes laid to my charge. I pardon those who have occa- 
sioned my death, and I pray to God that the blood you are now going 
to shed may never be visited on France." 

He was proceeding when a man on horseback in the national uni- 
form waved his sword, and with a ferocious cry ordered the drums to 
beat. Many voices were heard at the same time encouraging the execu- 
tioners. They seemed re-animated themselves, and seizing with violence 
the most virtuous of Kings, they dragged him under the axe of the 
guillotine, which with one stroke severed his head from his body. All 
this passed in a moment. The youngest of the guards, who seemed 
about eighteen, immediately seized the head, and showed it to the 
people as he walked round the scaffold. He accompanied this mon- 
strous ceremony with the most atrocious and indecent gestures. 

At first an awful silence prevailed. At length some cries of "Vive la 
Republique" were heard. By degrees voices multiplied, and in less than 
ten minutes this cry, a thousand times repeated, became the universal 
shout of the multitude, and every hat was in the air. 

The narrative proper ends here, but the Abbe" added something 
more in a letter he wrote to his brother. The blood of the King 
saturated his clothes, and as he stood on the scaffold an auction of the 
King's belongings was held— his hat and handkerchief. Then followed 
singing and dancing to the Marseillaise. The Abbd wrote: 

"Then, indeed, I thought it time to quit the scaffold. But casting 
my eyes round about, I saw myself invested by twenty or thirty thou- 
sand men in arms, and to pierce the crowd seemed to me a foolish 
attempt. However, as I must take that party, or by remaining to share 
the public joy, my only resource was to recommend myself to Provi- 
dence, and to steer my course towards the side on which the ranks 

Ireland Without Leaders 257 

seemed to have less depth. All eyes were fixed upon me, as you may 
suppose, but as soon as I reached the first line, to my great surprise, 
no resistance was made. The second line opened in the same manner, 
and when I got to the fourth or fifth, my coat being a common surtout 
(for I was not permitted on this occasion to wear any exterior marks 
of a priest), I was absolutely lost in the crowd, and no more noticed 
than if I had been a simple spectator of a scene, which forever will 
dishonor France." 

The Abbe Mac Geoghegan to the Irish Troops in the 
Service of France 

Europe, towards the end of the last century, was surprised to see 
your fathers abandon the delights of a fertile country, renounce the 
advantages which an illustrious birth had given them in their native 
land, and tear themselves from their possessions, from kindred, friends, 
and from all that nature and fortune had made dear to them; she was 
astonished to behold them deaf to the proposals of a liberal usurper, 
and, following the fortunes of a fugitive king, to seek with him in 
foreign climes, fatigues, and danger, content with their misfortune, 
as the seal of their fidelity to unhappy masters. 

France . . . gladly opened to them a generous bosom, being per- 
suaded that men so devoted to their princes would not be less so to 
their benefactors; and felt a pleasure in seeing them march under her 
banners. Your ancestors have not disappointed her hopes. Nervinde, 
Marseilles, Barcelona, Cremona, Luzara, Spire, Castiglione, Almanza, 
Villa Viciosa, and many other places, witnesses of their immortal 
valour, consecrated their devotedness for the new country which had 
adopted them. France applauded their zeal, and the greatest of 
monarchs raised their praise to the highest pitch by honoring them 
with the flattering title of "his brave Irishmen." 

The example of their chiefs animated their courage: the Viscounts 
Mountcashel and Clare, the Count of Lucan, the Dillons, Lees, Rothes, 
O'Donnells, Fitzgeralds, Nugents, and Galmoys opened to them on the 
borders of the Meuse, the Rhine and the Po, the career of glory, 

From The History of Ireland Ancient and Modern, Taken from the most Authen- 
tic Records, and Dedicated to the Irish Brigade, by the Abb* Mac Geoghegan, trans- 
lated from the French by Patrick O'Kelly, pp. 5-7. Printed for the author of the 
translation by T. O'Flanagan. Dublin. 1831. 

258 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

whilst the O'Mahonys, MacDonnels, the Lawlesses, the Lacys, the 
Burkes, O'Carrols, Croftons, Comerfords, Gardners, and O'Connors 
crowned themselves with laurels on the shores of the Tagus. 

The neighbouring powers wished to have in their service the 
children of these great men: Spain retained some of you near her 
throne. Naples invited you to her fertile country; Germany called 
you to the defence of her eagles. The Taafs, the Hamiltons, O'Dwyers, 
Brownes, Wallaces and O'Neills supported the majesty of the Empire, 
and were entrusted with its most important posts. The ashes of 
Mareschal Browne are every day watered with the tears of the soldiers 
to whom he was so dear, whilst the O'Donnells, Maguires, Lacys, and 
others endeavoured to form themselves after the example of that 
great man. 

Russia, that vast and powerful empire, an empire which has passed 
suddenly from obscurity to so much glory, wished to learn military 
discipline from your corps. Peter the Great, that penetrating genius and 
hero, the creator of a nation which is now triumphant, thought he 
could not do better than confide that essential part of the art of war 
to the Field Mareschal de Lacy, and the worthy daughter of that great 
emperor always entrusted to that warrior the principal defence of the 
august throne which she filled with so much glory. Finally, the Vis- 
count Fermoy, general officer in the service of Sardinia, has merited 
all the confidence of the crown. 

But why recall those times that are so long past? Why do I seek your 
heroes in those distant regions? Permit me, gentlemen, to bring to 
your recollection that great day, forever memorable in the annals of 
France; let me remind you of the plains of Fontenoy, so precious to 
your glory; those plains where in concert with chosen French troops, 
the valiant Count of Thomond being at your head, you charged, with 
so much valour, an enemy so formidable; animated by the presence 
of the august sovereign who rules over you, contributed with so much 
success, to the gaining of a victory, which, till then, appeared doubt- 
ful. Lawfeld beheld you, two years afterwards, in concert with one of 
the most illustrious corps of France, force entrenchments which ap- 
peared to be impregnable. Menin, Ypres, Tournay saw you crown 
yourselves with glory under their walls, whilst your countrynvn, under 
the standards of Spain, performed prodigies of valour at Campo Sancto 
and at Valetn. 

The Irish College in Paris was the one tangible boon that accrued to them from 
these victories: it was given the Irish refugees as a charity rather than as a reward 

lor two generations of milirarv u»rv«r*» 

for two generations of military service 

Ireland Without Leaders 259 

Michael Dwyer 

The insurrection of 1798 was best sustained in the eastern counties 
of Wicklow and Wexford. Of the impromptu leadership in Wicklow 
three showed themselves as resourceful — Michael Dwyer, Billy Byrne 
of Ballymanus, and Myles Byrne. Myles Byrne managed to get out 
of the country after the insurrection had been quelled, became a 
colonel in the Napoleonic armies, and lived to write an excellent 
account of what might have been a war of independence if the in- 
surrectionists had any extent of country to fall back on. The gentle- 
man-farmer, Billy Byrne of Ballymanus, was hanged. His resourceful- 
ness enabled Michael Dwyer to make a deal with the government by 
which a possible death penalty was commuted to banishment, but 
banishment to Australia which was then at the ends of the earth and 
known only as a convict settlement. 

It is extraordinary that in 1934 Padraig O'Tuathal was able to 
obtain an Ediphone recording of the recollections of one for whom 
the insurrection and the adventures of its leaders were household 
matters. Mrs. O'Tool of Ballinglen whose recollections were recorded 
was eight years of age when her grandfather died, her grandfather 
who had taken a prominent part in the insurrection. By the fireside 
in the Wicklow farmhouse, away from the stir of national and inter- 
national events, the lives of her grandfather's comrades must have 
been realized by her with great distinctness. And Mrs. O'Tool em- 
bodied a tradition, the Seanchas, the oral history which was to be 
related dramatically, of course, but responsibly, too. Checked against 
written sources, what she tells about the insurrection in Wicklow is 
substantially accurate. 

What she related, what is recorded of her recollections, is more 
than is given here. Padraig O'Tuathal got down in these Wicklow 
traditions a family saga of the greatest interest to those who want 
to know how the people of the Irish countryside lived and reacted to 
public affairs. The publication of them is an earnest of what the 
Folklore Commission can accomplish in the field of social history. 

And it also shows the competence of the shanachie. Mrs. O'Tool 
would not have regarded herself as a professional storyteller — prob- 
ably there was no one in her time in County Wicklow who was looked 
upon as a storyteller of the type of Peg Sayers in the Blasket Islands. 

From Bialoideas, Journal of the Folklore of Ireland Society. Dublin. 1929. 

260 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

Nevertheless she gives us a narrative in which incident and character 
become memorable. One would give a good deal of Irish fiction for 
that exchange between the Presbyterian insurrectionist who goes to 
Mass with Michael Dwyer and the priest who remonstrates with them 
for bringing guns into the chapel— "It is not always we have a rebel- 
lion, Father. Go on with the Massl"— P.C. 

On one occasion Dwyer and my grandfather and Hugh Byrne 
of Monaseed and poor McAllister — I am troubled to the heart 
when I think of poor McAllister; he was a true man — well, the 
four of them were in a cave on Lugnaquilla when the daylight 
came. By and by the sun shone in through the heather which hung 
over the hole they crept in. They were as comfortable as the day is 
long lying in a big bundle of clean straw and good bedclothes that 
was brought from a farmer's house; and the fanner's house was my 
greatgrandfather's. They were brought from a farmer's house near to 
the mountain and placed there designedly for the boys. So the four 
awoke, and they began to talk, and they got up and struck their flints 
and steel 'cause there was no matches. Then they lit their pipe, each 
of them, and they commenced to smoke and to talk as happy as the 
day is long, when a robin came in — and a robin is unusual so high 
up in the mountain, you know— a robin flew in, and she jumped 
around the quilt over them, and one grabbed at her, and another, 
and she flew out from the whole of them, and it wasn't two minutes 
till she came in again, and when she came in she bustled and set her- 
self just as if she was going to jump at them, and she got wicked 
looking and: "OI" says they, "there is something in this." The four 
jumped to their feet, and one of them put his head through the hole 
and he pulled back excited. "OI" he says, "the hillsides is red with 
soldiers." "Which will we lie in," says another, "or will we get out? 
If they have bloodhounds we're found out." "That's right," says they, 
and they all jumped to their feet, and the bloodhounds came in to 
the bed, but they dragged on their breeches and put their hats on 
them, and out they went with their guns. Dwyer whipped his sea- 
whistle and he whistled, and he could be heard, I suppose, in Arklow, 
and they fired off their three shots, and the soldiers turned around and 
they ran for their lives, and they never got time to look back till they 
fell over Lugnaquilla, and they told when they got below that the hills 
was full of rebels. 

There was a woman who used to deal in carrying bread around 
to the farmers herself and selling it to the women and children and 
otherwise, and when '98 broke out she was a valiant heroine woman 

Ireland Without Leaders 261 

and should be good, should have been of good blood or she wouldn't 
have been so sound as she was, for she never divulged it, and she 
carried scores and maybe hundreds of back-loads of powder to the boys 
and a dozen of penny buns put in over the pack, and no one ever 
detected it that she carried back loads of powder to the boys during 
the whole year of '98 and was never detected. Her name was never 
made known afraid they might find out what she was at, and she 
would have got a horrid death, but, thanks to GodI she didn't — she 
was never known by anything but the "Walking Magazine." 

One Sunday morning Dwyer and McAllister were at Mass in 
Knockananna Chapel, and they brought their guns with them and left 
them by the wall. The priest remonstrated with them and said that 
the House of God was no place to bring guns, but McAllister who was 
a Presbyterian but used to go to Mass with Dwyer said: "It is not 
always we have a rebellion, Father. Go on with the Mass!" And the 
priest did so. 

During the Mass a neighbour came to Dwyer and said that he 
had been at the window and that the chapel yard was full of soldiers, 
and Dwyer picked out two clever young fellows and he told them 
for to go away to a field a distance from the chapel-yard but in sight 
of it, and says he: "Take off your coats." 

He told them to run along the field in their shirts as fast as they 
could, and he picked out two or three more young chaps of boys that 
were clever enough to understand him, and he told them to go down 
beside the soldiers and stand looking down at this field and to cry 
out each one in surprise and wonder: "There they gol There they gol" 
And they did so, and the soldiers asked them who did they mean by 
there they go, and they told them — all cried out: "Dwyer and Mc- 
Allisterl Dwyer and McAllister!" The soldiers started for to overtake 
Dwyer and McAllister, and they failed on it for Dwyer and McAllister 
was hid in the chapel and when the soldiers cleared out they cleared 
out and went their way in peace and quietness. The soldiers went out 
across the fence and they came on the two boys that ran, and they 
sitting with their coats on, and they smoking their pipes, and they 
asked them did they see two men running through the fields, and 
they said "No," that they were not long there. So Dwyer and McAllister 
walked off in safety and left the poor lads wandering about to look 
for them. 

Dwyer was near being captured in Imaal after that when the soldiers 
came to a house where he was, but he got out and into a piggery 
behind a big old sow, and when the soldiers came in the sow sat 
up on her hind legs and made battle with them, and Dwyer gave her 

262 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

a little stab now and then behind backs and they prodded at her with 
their bayonets, and she groaned at them fearful wicked, and by and 
by they got tired and said he wasn't there at all. 

Dwyer and my grandfather and the boys went on to a friend's 
place in the Churches, and there was a born cripple lodging at the 
house, and no one mistrusted anything about him. He was at one side 
of the kitchen and they were at the other talking over their plans, and 
Dwyer said that he would get into St. Kevin's Bed and let the soldiers 
surround him, and the boys could surround them and he would fire 
off a shot as a signal. 

So the cripple gathered up the whole story, and when he got up the 
next morning and got in his box where there were four dogs drawing 
him — it was a strange sight to see — he got on to the camp, and he 
informed on the poor fellows, and told every word he heard the night 
before. He informed on them, and when he mentioned St. Kevin's 
Bed the English officer said he knew nothing about St. Kevin's Bed, 
and the cripple brought the soldiers on to show them where St. Kevin's 
Bed was, and when he came there he pointed it out to them. But 
Dwyer rose up on his elbow when he saw him, and he let fly at him, 
and he blew him out of the old box. The soldiers took flight then, 
and got away with their lives. So when Dwyer expected they'd be 
surrounding him backwards he jumped into the lake which was never 
done since nor before by any man. 

When Dwyer was after being married to his wife, a beautiful woman, 
Doyle, an officer came from Humewood Camp where they were stay- 
ing — several of them and a lord — an English lord, lord Huntley and 
this old officer came to Mrs. Dwyer in the absence of Dwyer, and he 
asked her to come out on the road that he wanted to speak to her. He 
was very nice to her, and he made her great promises. He told her that 
there was as good men in England as Dwyer — she should have been 
cool — it wasn't I was in itl — I suppose he meant to give her the pick of 
an Englishman, and as well that she'd never want, that she'd have 
money at her command every place she'd go; he'd promise her that 
she'd never want for money, and he told her that there was as good 
men in England as Dwyer. If she'd just let him know where was Dwyer 
everything 'd be right, and then he looked around him and he said: 
"Maybe, Mrs. Dwyer, you wouldn't like to be seen speaking to me 
here on the road? If you'd come down to yonder grove beside the 
Slaney at the dusk of night, such an evening as there was moonlight, 
we would have a private conversation where there'd be no one to see 
us." Mrs. Dwyer agreed with him and said she would go, and when 
Dwyer came home she told him the whole story. Dwyer told her that 

Ireland Without Leaders 263 

they'd save her the journey, that he'd go and have a loving chat with 
this old officer, and he said to her to dress him in her grey cloak, as 
there was cloaks with a big hood at the back worn by girls in them 
days. So she dressed Dwyer in the grey cloak which covered him down 
to the feet, and he started to have a loving conversation with the old 
officer. He went down to the bank of the Slaney, and he made himself 
as small as he could, and he sat down concealed in his grey cloak. The 
old officer stepped out of the grove and gently tipped him on the 
shoulder to have the loving chat with Mrs. Dwyer, and to his great 
surprise Dwyer jumped to his feet and whipped hold of him by the 
throat, and threw him into the Slaney, and hammered him against the 
stones there till he had him boneless and senseless and lifeless, and he 
laid him down there beside the Slaney. He was brought off by the 
soldiers and buried and they made no fuss about him at all. 

Two neighbours of Dwyer's went to the Glen of Iraaal and advised 
him to surrender and not to give the English Government the pleasure 
of arresting him and hanging him as a dog, after all his bravery and 
the good acts he had done. He told them that he'd never go into 
Humewood to lay down his arms to a British subject, that he'd suffer 
death a thousand times before he'd do it, and he'd stay where he was 
and give them more of it. So the two men importuned him not to 
venture his life altogether, and that they'd go into Humewood and 
propose to Hume that he'd have to come out to meet Dwyer, to come 
to some settlement, that he wouldn't go into Humewood, that he'd 
never do it. Hume agreed to come out, and that he'd bring no guard 
of soldiers with him, nor to come by day, and he done neither, but he 
brought two farming men like what they were along with him and 
they put on Imaal Gap after nightfall, and when they were drawing 
near Hume got a bit shaky about Dwyer and he cried out: "Was that 
Dwyer?" and Dwyer said it was, and he asked him: "Dwyer have you 
got arms on you?" "I have," says Dwyer, "but they won't affect you 
tonight." So they drew near to each other, and Hume mentioned a 
number of the transports abroad, but Dwyer told him if he made up 
his mind to go anywhere he'd go where he liked, and if not he'd stay 
at home and give them more of it. Hume, delighted to hear of a chance 
of getting shut of him at all, to get him out of Ireland, threw up his 
arms and he said: "All right, Dwyer, all right. Go where you please. 
We'll send you anywhere." 

So Dwyer said he'd to to Sydney in Australia, and if they did not 
send him there he'd go nowhere at all but would stay at home and 
give them more of it. So they sent him to Sydney in Australia, and he 
brought his pike along with him. 

264 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

Billy Byrne of Ballymanus 

In the year of '98, my boys, we got reason to complain 
When we lost our chief commander, Billy Byrne was his name. 
He was took in Dublin City and brought off to Wicklow Gaol, 
And to our great misfortune, for him they'd take no bail. 

When he was taken prisoner the lot against him swore 
That he a Captain's title upon Mount Pleasant bore, 
Before the King's grand army his men he did review 
And with a piece of cannon marched on for Carrigruadh. 

When the informers they came in 

There was Dixon, Doyle and Davis and likewise Bid Doolin. 
They thought it little scruple his precious blood to spill 
Who never robbed nor murdered nor to any man did ill. 

It would melt your heart with pity how these traitors did explain 
That Byrne worked the cannon on Arklow's bloody plain. 
They swore he worked the cannon and headed the pikemen, 
And near the town of Gorey killed three loyal Orangemen. 

They swore he had ten thousand men all ready at his command, 
All ready for to back the French as soon as they would land. 
They swore he was committed to support the United cause. 
The Judge he cried out "Guilty," to be hanged by coercion laws. 

One of those prosecutors I often heard him tell, 
It was at his father's table he was often treated well, 
And in his brother's kitchen where many did he see. 
The Byrnes were well rewarded for their civility. 

My curse light on you, Dixon, I ne'er will curse your soul. 
It was at the Bench at Wicklow ym swore without control. 
The making of a false oath you thought it little sin, 
To deprive the County Wicklow of the flower of all its men. 


Ireland Without Leaders 265 

Where are you, Matthew Davis, or why don't you come on, 
To prosecute the prisoner who now lies in Rathdrum? 
The devil has him last chained repenting for his sins, 
In lakes of fire and brimstone and sulphur to the chin. 

When the devil saw him coming he sang a merry song, 
Saying "Welcome, Matthew Davis, what kept you out so long? 
Where is that traitor, Dixon, to the Crown so loyal and true? 
I have a warm corner for him and, of course, Bid Doolin too." 

Success to Billy Byrne! May his name forever shine, 
Through Wicklow, Wexford and Kildare and all along the line. 
May the Lord have mercy on his soul and all such souls as he, 
Who stood upright for Ireland's cause and died for Libertyl 

The Battle of Ballygullen 

At dawn of day on the 4th of July, after our reconnoitring paities 
had returned, our army was roused from its slumber and left its bivouac 
to take up a military position on a small hill just over Ballyfad. 

With Esmond Kyan and other officers, I was at the head of our 
column. We were going in front to choose out the situation. All at 
once, on reaching this rising ground, we found ourselves enveloped 
in a thick fog which, as we advanced, became so dense that we could 
not distinguish anything at upwards of twenty feet distance. After 
marching some time thus, we heard a volley of musketry, the balls of 
which came whistling over our heads and through our ranks. We knew 
that this volley came from the enemy's advance guard, frightened at 
the noise of our approach and wishing to give the alarm to their own 
troops who were following. They must have feared falling into an 
ambuscade in the fog. 

We returned immediately to Ballyfad and took another direction, 
as we could not distinguish the force of the enemy until the fog would 
disappear and the day become brighter. In retracing our way down 
the hill, we met numbers of our men going astray from the main body 
on account of the fog. However, all soon fell in with their ranks, and 
the division moved in perfect order along the high road to Gorey. 

From Memoirs of Miles Byrne, Chef de Bataillon in the Service of France, edited 
by His Widow, pp. 273-283. Gusiave Bossange et Cie. Paris. 1863. 

266 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

After we had marched about a mile in this direction, the fog began 
to clear and the morning became bright. All at once we noticed a 
large division of the English army, horse, foot and artillery, following 
our column about two musket shots distant from our rear-guard. This 
division was commanded by General Sir James Duff and, since he did 
not accelerate his march to attack us, it was evident that he was 
waiting for other divisions to come to his assistance before he risked 

Our division was marching in perfect order; the men were calm, 
but anxious for the command to halt and begin battle. They were 
continually looking behind them at the mass of red coats, glittering 
arms and banners, following on the same road, and flanked by a big 
force of cavalry which, however, did not attempt to charge our rear- 
guard. Our generals, therefore concluding that Sir James Duff was 
merely waiting for reinforcements, decided to risk a general action. 

When our column had made more than two miles on the Gorey 
road, it turned to the right by a narrow cross-road leading to the town- 
land of Ballygullen, and continued for about a mile in this direction, 
the English following at the same distance. The Irish column then 
halted and formed its line of battle quickly and with great skill. Our 
gunmen took position behind fences on both sides of the road, while 
some of our pikemen, moving along with well-mounted men at their 
head, gave the impression that the march was being continued in the 
usual way. This induced the English cavalry to advance and follow as 
they had been doing all the morning. 

Our men behind the fences allowed the cavalry to come very near 
the line. It was intended to let them pass on and to get them between 
two fires, but the impatience of our marksmen could not be restrained 
any longer. They began a well-directed fire on the cavalry, which was 
thrown into great disorder and fled, large numbers being killed and 

General Duff, seeing his cavalry attacked and dispersed so suddenly, 
marched rapidly forward with all his forces and deployed his column. 
Then commenced the Battle of Ballygullen, the last regular one we 
fought in the County of Wexford. 

The greatest bravery and generalship was displayed. Our gunmen 
boldly kept their position under the heaviest fire; being good marks- 
men, every shot either killed or wounded, and they continued this fire 
until their last cartridge was spent. Then a large body of pikemen, 
headed by almost all the chiefs, marched forward to turn the left flank 
of Duff's army, and to intercept his communications with Gorey. To 
avoid being turned, he had to fall back on the Gorey road. Thus we 

Ireland Without Leaders 267 

succeeded in making the enemy quit the field. But knowing that other 
divisions would soon arrive to Duff's assistance, we were unable to 
avail of our victory fully by pursuing and pressing home our advantage. 

We had great numbers killed and wounded in this battle, which 
lasted two hours, and was fought with equal bravery on both sides. 

Our generals, having seen that the wounded were carried away to 
safety, gave orders to rally and make a halt on a rising ground about 
half a mile from the field of battle. They wished to prepare to meet any 
divisions of the enemy which might be coming from Carnew, Ferns 
and other places. This pause also gave time to our men in the rear to 
rejoin their respective corps, which they did at their ease, unmolested 
by the enemy's cavalry which had now completely disappeared from 

It was during the short rest taken by our army after this battle that 
I had my last talk with brave Anthony Perry. When I came up, he was 
lying on the ground holding his horse by the bridle. I sat down beside 
him, holding mine in the same manner. He seemed exhausted. I asked 
him what plan we should now follow. He replied that all the leaders 
believed that it would be madness to remain any longer in Wexford, 
overrun as it then was with English troops. They had therefore re- 
solved to march to the Wicklow Mountains and there manoeuvre, 
gaining time until supplies of arms and ammunition would come from 
France or elsewhere. 

When our men were rested and rallied, we marched off on the Ferns 
road, as if to attack that town. An English division, marching from 
the town to attack us, retreated as soon as the news of General Duffs 
defeat was known. We did not see their scouting parties in front, rear, 
nor on our flanks the rest of the day. But they were certainly ready to 
receive us in their garrison strongholds, which we, through want of 
artillery and ammunition, could not hope to capture. 

After passing Cranford, we turned to the right from the Ferns road. 
We passed by Buckstown House, where I saw my dear mother and 
sister for an instant only. They, with many other females, had taken 
refuge in this mansion. 

It was decided to make a night march in order to baffle the enemy. 
Our column was to march on to Wingfield and thence along the road 
to Kilpipe and Aughrim, that is, by the straight way whith leads to 
Glenmalure and the Wicklow Mountains. I wish to be particular about 
tracing this route; some historians have stated that, after the Battle of 
Ballygullen, our division marched to Carrigrew and there dispersed. 
Far from thinking of dispersing, our men were flushed with the hope 
that something good was still in store foi them. Never did I see them 

268 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

march and keep together better than they did all that day, both before 
and after the battle. 

As Ballygullen was the last pitched battle we fought in County 
Wexford, I feel it but just to say that I never saw more bravery than 
was shown on this occasion by our leaders and men. Throughout the 
campaign, want of ammunition was our chief misfortune. The search 
for it led us to attack towns where we suffered severe losses which could 
have been avoided if we had had plenty of powder and ball. 

I have been frequently asked if our failure was not in great measure 
to be attributed to the want of experienced officers in our army. Cer- 
tainly, such officers are the soul of every army, and no one can esteem 
their worth more than I do. But it was a depot of military stores we 
wanted most; we had a host of leaders who showed talents of the first 
order for the field. Alasl we had no friendly foreign countries to 
furnish us with those military stores so necessary for carrying on a war 
of independence, and such as the Greeks received in their struggle from 
every country in Europe as well as from America. 

Scarcity of ammunition and our despair of getting fresh supplies 
decided us to march, after the Battle of Ballygullen, to the Wicklow 
Mountains, there to defend ourselves as best we could until our situa- 
tion would improve. Another reason for this march was the lack of 
food in Wexford. The county had been ravaged in all directions. Last 
season's provisions were wholly consumed, and the new crops were still 
unfit for use. Though we could procure cattle, we could seldom halt 
and wait long enough to have them killed and the meat cooked for 

When I look back, I am really astonished that we bore up against 
hunger and fatigue, particularly on the day of the Battle of Bally- 
gullen. This day began at dawn, and with marching, countermarching 
and fighting, terminated only with a weary night march. The march 
was not impeded by the enemy, but our long fast caused many men to 
go right and left away from the main body in search of something to 

When we had passed Kilpipe, a brave young fellow, handsome and 
well mounted, rode up to me on the road. His name was Tom Wood- 
burn. He proposed that I should go to my step-sister's house at Ballin- 
temple, a mile away, where I could get rest and refreshment. He 
himself wished to stay for the night with her father-in-law, Mr. Doyle, 
whom he knew and whose house was but two fields from hers. I 
reluctantly consented to this plan, and we went to Ballintemple. 


Ireland Without Leaders 269 

It is one of the acts of my life which frets me most when I look back. 
My brother-in-law, who had taken no part in the Insurrection, ran a 
chance of being shot or transported had I been found in his house. He 
was the father of six children, the eldest of them being only ten years 
old. How cruel it would have been had these poor children been left 
fatherless on my account! 

My sister and her husband were terrified when they saw me. They 
told me that their place had been searched by the yeomen cavalry 
almost every day since the Battle of Arklow. These yeomen were almost 
sure to call and search next day. 

After eating a meal which I much needed, I retired to one of the out- 
houses — not the stable, for that was the first place the cavalry would 
search to see if any horses there might suit them. I soon fell asleep, un- 
conscious of my danger. 

At the dawn of day my poor sister, who had spent the night watch- 
ing and listening while I slept, woke me and led me a little distance 
from the house. On the hill opposite I saw at once, quite plainly, a 
horseman. At the same time we heard the noise of cavalry coming 
up the valley to the house. My sister pointed out to me the way to 
escape. One minute later I would have been shot or a prisoner. I 
crossed a field, got over a high fence and remained concealed until my 
dear sister came in about an hour and told me that the danger was 
over for the moment. The Orange cavalry had visited every part of her 
dwelling and out-houses. At her father-in-law's house they had cap- 
tured poor Thomas Woodburn, tied him neck and heels, and carried 
him off to Arklow or perhaps shot him on the way. 

I asked my sister to send for a young man called Larry Lorgan, who 
had been wounded at the Battle of Arklow and had remained in hiding 
ever since. He immediately came to me, and we decided that during 
the day he would tell all the men in hiding who wished to join our 
army to assemble late in the evening. I undertook to lead them to our 
camp, which should now be on the way to Glenmalure. 

At dusk he brought to the meeting place ten or twelve poor fellows, 
badly armed but determined to fight their way. I took leave of my poor 
sister and set out with my small detachment. All of them seemed de- 
lighted to get away from the misery of lying in hiding. They were 
cheered at the prospect of joining the main body again and, since most 
of them knew the country we had to march through, there was no need 
for guides. 

We were joined on the way by many of our men who from fatigue 
had remained behind the army. At Aughrim several fine fellows came 
out of their hiding places and marched with us. But we could not find 

270 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

out definitely what direction the main body of our army had taken. 
We resolved to fight our way to Glenmalure without delay. 

Next morning, to our great sorrow, Larry Lorgan was killed in a 
skirmish with a body of enemy cavalry. After this unfortunate in- 
cident we resumed our march. We arrived early that day in Glen- 
malure, and there I met great numbers of County Wexford men, all of 
whom were, like myself, at a loss to know what direction our main 
army had taken. We decided to organize ourselves as best we could, 
and to remain in Glenmalure until we might learn where Garret 
Byrne and the other chiefs had pitched their camp. 

Glenmalure provided some food resources. Flocks of sheep grazed 
on the mountains arounds, but the want of salt and vegetables was 
sorely felt. No bread could be got for any money, and the potatoes, 
being unripe, were unfit for use. Thus, we had to go far away on night 
expeditions to get oatmeal and salt. 

Here I first saw the brave, intrepid Michael Dwyer. He had already 
acquired a great reputation in this mountainous district. Every time 
the cavalry tried to reconnoitre the position near the entrance to the 
Glen, he was sure to be on their flank or in ambuscade, before day- 
light, awaiting their arrival. Both he and his followers were from 
this country, and were very good marksmen. They took delight in 
terrifying the cavalry, who wheeled about and fled the moment a shot 
was fired at them. So, by reason of Dwyer's bravery, we were per- 
fectly safe at night, to rest and recover from the fatigues of our Wex- 
ford campaign. 

The famous Holt had just arrived in the Glen. Worth special men- 
tion is a night expedition which we made under his command, and 
during which we encountered, suddenly, near the bridge of Greenan, 
an enemy army marching from Rathdrum to reconnoitre our position 
in the Glen. Hearing the noise of our column's advance, the enemy 
delivered a fierce discharge from their pistols, and then awaited in 
silence our approach. 

I shall never forget Holt's presence of mind in this danger. He cried 
out with the voice of a Stentor, ordering our pikemen to march in a 
body across the bridge. In the same loud voice he ordered the gunmen 
to wade across the river and attack the enemy's flanks. The enemy, 
apparently terrified, retreated in disorder to Rathdrum, while we, on 
our side, had the greatest trouble in rallying our men and keeping 
them from disbanding. However, after some time panic subsided and 
we rallied again on the road and returned to the Glen. 

Glenmalure is nearly three miles long. The little river, Avonbeg, 
coming down from high mountains, runs through it. There were 

Ireland Without Leaders 271 

several houses on each side of the river, and in those houses our men 
could cook the mutton which they got in abundance. They found 
timber for pike handles in the rafters of the smelting house belonging 
to the lead mines. Soon we were fairly well armed with pikes, though 
still badly provided with firearms and ammunition. 

Sad tidings now reached us of the defeat and complete dispersal 
of our main army, which had marched into the Counties of Meath, 
Louth and Dublin. The chiefs of the Glen held a meeting, and resolved 
in consequence to defend the Glen more carefully than ever. 

Among those who escaped to Glenmalure from the Boyne were 
Esmond Kyan and my brother Hugh. The former would not stay with 
us. He insisted on returning to Wexford, where he expected to get a 
safe hiding-place. Alasl he was hanged and gibbeted like the other 
patriots whose heads already decorated the public buildings in the 
town of Wexford. 

Had Father Kearns and Anthony Perry reached Glenmalure, they 
would have been able to make use of the great advantages these Wick- 
low Mountains offered against the enemy. But they were doomed not 
to die the death of soldiers. They were both captured and hanged at 

Lord Edward Fitzgerald 

In 1773 the Duke of Leinster, father of Lord Edward, died, and the 
Duchess, shortly after, married a Scottish gentleman, Mr. Ogilvie, 
with whom she had her family removed to a house near Aubigny, in 
France, lent them by her brother, the Duke of Richmond. 

Here the military education of little Edward was begun; he erecied 
forts in the orangery, surveyed and drew maps of the fields about, and 
generally so threw himself, heart and soul, into the study of his future 
profession, that when the family returned to England, in 1779, he, 
then hardly sixteen years of age, was able to direct the pitching and 
laying out of a camp by the Sussex militia, of which the Duke of 
Richmond was colonel. 

In 1780 he obtained a lieutenancy in the Ninety-sixth Regiment of 
foot, only to effect an exchange (as that regiment was not going into 
active service) into the Nineteenth, with which he went to Charleston, 
South Carolina, during the first year of the American Revolution, and 

By Gcraldine M. Haverty, in The Gael, September. 1901, pp. 2y3-296. New York. 

272 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

took for a short time a most energetic part in the campaign about 
that city. 

Some have been inclined to think that the future patriot received 
his first conceptions of sympathy with the cause of liberty during this 
sojourn in a country fighting for its freedom: there is no reason to 
think so. A brief campaign, harried by a victorious foe, and only a 
few months before the watchman's cry of "Past one o'clock and Corn- 
wallis is taken!" echoed through the night in the streets of Philadel- 
phia, presented little opportunity for the study of political problems, 
and, had his thoughts been turned in that direction, he could hardly 
have decided to enter Woolwich to complete his education as an 
officer of the British army, which he did, not long after his return 
to England. 

During his subsequent sojourn in Canada, whither he went with his 
regiment, a lady's name appears constantly in his home letters, and 
her marriage during his absence was a severe blow to his trusting 
and affectionate heart. 

He was learning other things in the New World, however — the 
virtues of republican independence, a love of freedom from the 
trammels and artificialities of military life, and his letters are full of 
enthusiastic admiration for the simple, hardy life of the frontiersman. 

Here he was adopted by the Bear tribe of Indians. 

A visit to Paris in 1792, during which he spent much time in the 
company of Thomas Paine, brought him in contact with the leading 
spirits in the movement for French liberty, which association in the 
intoxicating atmosphere of republicanism then gathering all Europe 
in its folds, all combined to develop in him the principles of national 
liberty and the deep love of his native land which had hitherto been 
unaccounted in his career. 

It was at a banquet given in honor of the victories of the French 
arms, that he, in company with some others, formally renounced his 
title, and drank a toast: "The speedy abolition of all hereditary titles 
and feudal distinctions," which gave an opportunity for his enemies 
at home to procure his summary dismissal from the British army. 

In the career of this brilliant young patriot, love and adventure 

Ireland Without Leaders 273 

always went side by side, and it was almost immediately after he had 
thus definitely proclaimed his political sentiments, that he met and 
fell in love with the beautiful Pamela, daughter of the Duke of Orleans 
and Madame de Genlis, who passed as the adopted daughter of that 
lady, under the name of Mademoiselle Sims. 

Their first meeting was romantic; he saw her at the opera, was 
struck by her resemblance to a dear friend long dead, Mrs. Sheridan, 
who had long wished that these two should meet. But that had been 
prevented by Fitzgerald's professed antipathy to "learned women," 
among whom he counted Madame de Genlis. 

Their mutual attraction was all that their dead friend could have 
wished, and in less than a month after their first meeting they were 
married in Paris, and Mademoiselle Sims became Lady Edward Fitz- 
gerald, the renunciation of his title having been apparently a passing 
flash of republicanism, which was suffered to fade into oblivion. 

Lord Edward took his bride to London, where she was welcomed by 
his indulgent mother; they then proceeded to Dublin, where they 
plunged anew into the sea of controversy regarding religious liberty 
which was beating about Parliament. 

Although he delivered some fiery speeches in the House, and took 
a deep interest in the political struggle which was now being carried 
forward, Lord Edward did not identify himself with the United Irish- 
men for some years. He spent his time in a pleasant, quiet, domestic 
manner at different country places, gardening and writing long letters 
to his mother, in which nothing seemed further from his thoughts 
than the idea of engaging in any revolutionary struggle. 

He formally joined the United Irishmen early in 1796, and was 
in the same year entrusted with a mission from that body to the French 
Directory, and from that time he was deeply concerned in all matters 
pertaining to the Rebellion. 

On the 28th of April, 1798, Arthur O'Conor, probably Fitzgerald's 
most intimate associate in these affairs, was arrested with Father 
Quigley, at Margate, England, on their way to France, and incriminat- 
ing papers being found upon them, they were committed to the Tower 
on a charge of high treason. In consequence of these discoveries the 
office of the Press, in Dublin, was entered and searched, and Fitzgerald 
and Mr. Sampson were found there. 

Events now showed that the struggle with or without French aid 
must soon come, and Lord Edward's military training became useful 
in the organization of a revolutionary staff with officers in each county, 
acting under regular instructions drawn up by himself. 

The fervent patriotism and absolute loyalty of the members of the 

274 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

United Irishmen, which alone could have permitted so large and 
scattered a body of men to carry on operations under the very eyes of 
the government, had given the leaders a perfect trust in the integrity 
of their followers. Hence, the implicit confidence reposed in a few 
traitors such as Reynolds. It takes all kinds of men to make up a 
revolution, and probably there were many good men and true whose 
outward character was no more prepossessing than his. Though sus- 
pected and disliked by some of the party, yet he was granted admission 
into their most secret councils. 

Dr. MacNevin writes of Reynolds: "My opportunity enabled me to 
know that he was given to lying, much of a glutton, and both expen- 
sive and avaricious, qualities I have never seen belong to a man of 
firm resolution, generous purpose, integrity and courage." 

On Monday, March 12th, acting under the direction of Reynolds, 
who had been summoned to a special council, Major Swan, accom- 
panied by thirteen sergeants, went to the house of Oliver Bond, and by 
means of the password "Where's McCann? Is Ivers from Carlow come?" 
obtained admission and arrested all who were assembled. Fortunately, 
neither MacNevin, Sampson, Emmet, nor Fitzgerald was there; the 
three first were shortly after arrested elsewhere, but Fitzgerald escaped, 
and went into hiding. His house was searched, and poor Pamela, ill 
and frightened, gave up all papers. 

Her husband preserved his freedom for a few months, by rapidly 
changing his places of concealment, going first to the house of a 
widowed lady, Mrs. Dillon, near the Grand Canal, where, it is recorded, 
SO light-hearted was he that on his walks after dark with a little child, 
the two could be heard laughing and talking for some distance. 

From Mrs. Dillon's house, that retreat being in danger of discovery, 
he fled for shelter to the home of Mr. Murphy, in Thomas Street, be- 
tween which place and the houses of two other gentlemen, Mr. Mc- 
Cormick and Mr. Moore, he passed his time in safety until May. 

These houses were chosen because their owners belonged to a class 
of citizens who had most in common with the uprising, and through 
whom Lord Edward could hold frequent communication with the 
moving spirits in the enterprise to which his enthusiasm and authority 
and soldierly training were of such inestimable value. The plan was, 
when they had gained over a sufficient number of the militia (who 

Ireland Without Leaders 275 

were already much disaffected), to organize a supplement to their 
own untrained forces (the hope of aid from France having dwindled 
to a mere chance of obtaining some skilled officers) that Lord Edward 
should raise his standard at Leinster, and take Dublin with the lord- 
lieutenant and other government officials. 

Though searched for with eagerness by the government, he still 
continued to direct operations from his retreat, and the anxiety for his 
capture became so strong that 1,000 pounds was offered for his appre- 
hension. His family, meanwhile, imagined him safe out of the country, 
and though wondering at the reward, felt no fears for his safety. 

He had retired for a while to the country, but, the date for the 
general uprising being set for the night of the 23rd of May, and his 
personal assistance being required in Dublin, Fitzgerald accordingly 
returned, and traveling for the last time through his old hiding places, 
finally arrived at Mr. Murphy's house, where his uniform, of dark 
green and crimson, was brought to him and concealed by Mr. Murphy 
in an outhouse. 

Treachery was now doing its work; the government was advised of 
the whereabouts of the noble fugitive, who had so long evaded them, 
and it was on the afternoon of the 19th of May, just after dinner, 
when Lord Edward had gone up to his room and was lying on his bed, 
that the house was abruptly entered by Major Swan and a man named 
Ryan, who was the printer of an Orange newspaper and a captain 
of yeomanry. 

Mr. Murphy, who was speaking to his guest, was disturbed by the 
tramping of feet upon the stairs, and turning, confronted the intruders. 
Lord Edward started to his feet, whereupon Swan fired a pistol at him, 
which not taking' effect, he struck Murphy in the face, and hustled 
him from the room. Ryan, meanwhile, had attacked Fitzgerald, who 
had produced a small crooked dagger which he kept about him. A 
desperate struggle ensued, during which Ryan received a wound which 
afterwards proved fatal. Major Swan having placed guards about the 
house now hurried up into the room with a party of soldiers, and 
firing, shot Lord Edward in the arm, compelling him to drop his 

It required the united efforts of the party to subdue their prisoner; 
they finally held him down with their muskets crossed, a drummer 
having meanwhile wounded him in the neck with a sword. 

He was carried to the castle, and thence to Newgate, under a strong 
force of soldiery. 

Here he remained, wounded and ill, and under the fearful strain 
and fever consequent on his wounds his mind became unbalanced. 

276 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

His knowledge of the execution of young Clinch, just outside his cell, 
and the cruelty which prohibited any of his family and friends from 
visiting him in his prison, contributed in no small measure to his 
illness and misfortune. 

Pamela, the "poor, pale, pretty little wife," as he used to call her, 
in a very low condition from fright and illness, had been taken away 
to England, as there was no chance of her being of any use in Ireland, 
and there was much suspicion and prejudice against her on account of 
her French connections. 

It was not until the evening before he died that his aunt, Lady 
Louisa Connolly, hearing through another late prisoner in Newgate 
of his dangerous condition, made a desperate and successful effort to 
see him. Failing with Lord Camden, she hastened to Lord Clare, who, 
overcome by her violent entreaties, consented to go with her to New- 
gate and procure admission to the prisoner. 

She took with her Lord Henry Fitzgerald, brother of the patriot. 
Lady Louisa wrote an account of this visit, in which she describes the 
pleasure of Lord Edward at their visit, but adds that "his senses were 
much lulled." 

He died in convulsions caused by his wounds about two hours after 
the visitors had departed, a sad ending for one of his temperament. 

He loved the open strife of the battlefield, and the soldier's life; he 
died in prison. He had dearly loved his family and friends, and had 
died away from them, attended only by unfriendly prison guards. 
Freedom, gaiety, and pleasure he had loved, and his last hours were 
lonely, dark, and miserable. 

Moore tells us how he once hastened after him in the street, "de- 
sirous," as he says, "of another look at one whose name had, from my 
school days, been associated in my mind with all that was noble, pa- 
triotic and chivalrous. Though I saw him but this once," he continues, 
"his peculiar dress, the elastic lightness of his step, his fresh, healthful 
complexion, and the soft expression given to his eyes by their long, 
dark eyelashes, are as present and familiar to my memory as if I had 
intimately known him." 

John Philpot Curran 

The sparkling wit, the brilliant orator, the enthusiastic advocate, 
the extraordinary humorist, the flashing conversationalist was with all 

By Charles O'Hanlon, in The Gael, February, 1900, pp. 52-54. New York. 

Ireland Without Leaders 277 

one of the most devoted, true-hearted patriots and statesmen ever 
given birth to. He was born on the 24th day of July, 1750, at the little 
town of Newmarket, in the County of Cork. His father, James Curran, 
was Seneschal of the manor court of Newmarket, and was a man of 
moderate acquirements and of very limited circumstances. His mother, 
whose maiden name was Philpot, was of a very respectable family, and 
possessed of rare mental endowments. Curran was accustomed to say: 
"The only inheritance I can boast of from my poor father, was the 
very scanty one of an unattractive face and person like his own, and 
if the world has ever attributed to me something more valuable than 
face and person, or than earthly wealth, it was that another and a 
dearer parent gave her child a portion from the treasures of her mind." 

. . . The early career of the wayward, witty, and erratic village-boy, 
bore with it the usual sparkling coruscations of genius. In all youth- 
ful sports and pastimes, young Curran took the lead, and on one occa- 
sion became the unknown spokesman to an itinerant Punch and Judy 
show, to the great amazement of the audience, who were puzzled at 
the intimate knowledge which Mr. Punch seemed to possess of all the 
salient and comic points of Village gossip. . . . 

His course in college was marked with social and convivial powers; 
wit, comicality, and impudence, yet with great love of classical lore and 
literature. Having qualified for a master's degree, in 1773, he left 
college, and entered as a law student in the Middle Temple, London. 

To the lamentations of a woman at an Irish wake, Curran attributed 
his great love of oratory. His first attempts at public speaking were 
utter failures, not only from confusion and precipitation of utterance, 
whence he derived the cognomen of "Stuttering Jack Curran," but 
from a nervous paralysis, to which the most imaginative minds are 
subject on first encountering the gaze of a large audience. 

Five years later he appeared in a cause c£lebre at the Cork assizes. 
It was a singular case, and served to display the courage that was his 
distinguishing characteristic. A Catholic peasant had fallen under the 
censure of the Church. His sister was the mistress of a territorial mag- 
nate, Lord Doneraile. She begged his lordship to force the parish 
priest to remove the censure. Lord Doneraile, accompanied by a mili- 
tary fire-eater, Captain St. Leger, called upon the priest. The priest 
would not yield, and Lord Doneraile horsewhipped him. An action for 
assault was the result. But there was not a member of the Munster 
circuit who would hold a brief against the great nobleman. The story 
of the outrage shocked Curran. He volunteered his services. They were 

Taking into account the prostrate condition of the Catholics at that 

278 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

period, the bigotry of Protestant juries, and the extraordinary circum- 
stance of a poor priest suing for justice against a Protestant lord, the 
success of Curran, in obtaining a verdict with thirty' guineas damages 
for his client, was regarded by the general public as the highest proof 
of forensic ability and eloquence. In his appeal to the jury he de- 
scribed Mr. St. Leger, who was a relative of Lord Doneraile's, and who 
had recently retired from a regiment that had been ordered on actual 
service, as "A renegade soldier, a drummed-out dragoon, who wanted 
the courage to meet the enemies of his country in battle, but had the 
heroism to redeem the ignominy of his flight from danger by raising 
his arm against an aged and unoffending minister of religion, who had 
just risen from putting up before the throne of God a prayer of gen- 
eral intercession, in which his heartless insulter was included." The 
result was a duel in which Curran declined to return his adversary's 
innocuous fire. These circumstances established a lasting claim to the 
homage and admiration of his enthusiastic countrymen for the Pro- 
testant advocate, and they ever after regarded him as one of themselves. 
Curran's practice at the bar grew rapidly, and he soon rose to the 
front rank in his profession. He had all the qualities of a great advo- 
cate. He was eloquent, judicious, painstaking, good-tempered; quick to 
see the faults in an adversary, and always ready to turn them to the 
best advantage; a master of invective and a master of humor; able to 
amuse, coax, convince; a favorite alike with judges who were not 
corrupt; and with juries who wished honestly to do their duty; a pop- 
ular orator and a perfect cross-examiner. 

As a cross-examiner, indeed, Curran's skill was unrivalled. He was 
ingenious, witty, trenchant, raking a witness by a fire of raillery or 
overwhelming him by a series of perplexing questions. "My lord," 
cried one of his victims, "I cannot answer Mr. Curran, he is putting 
me in such a doldrum." "A doldrum," exclaimed the judge; "what is a 
doldrum, Mr. Curran?" "Oh, my lord," replied Curran, "it is a com- 
mon complaint with persons like the witness. It is a confusion of the 
head, arising from a corruption of the heart." 

A barrister entered the hall with his wig very much awry, and of 
which he was not at all apprised, he was obliged to endure from almost 
every observer some remark on its appearance, till at last addressing 

Ireland Without Leaders 279 

himself to Mr. Curran, he asked him, "Do you see anything ridiculous 
in this wig?" The answer instantly was, "Nothing but the head." 

Bills of indictment had been sent up to a grand jury in the finding 
of which Curran was interested. After delay and much hesitation, one 
of the grand jurors came into court to explain the reason why it was 
ignored. Curran, very much vexed by the stupidity of this person, said, 
"You, sir, can have no objection to write upon the back of the bill 
ignoramus, for self and fellow-jurors; it will then be a true bill." 

There was one Irish judge — mirabile dictu — a dull, black-letter 
lawyer, who did not relish his wit. On one occasion, when Curran rose 
to cross-examine a witness, the witness laughed. "What are you laugh- 
ing at?" said Curran. "Let me tell you that a laugh without a joke is 
like — is like — " "Is like what, Mr. Curran," growled the judge. "Like 
a contingent retainer, my lord, without any particular estate to sup- 
port it," was the reply. 

"How do you get your living?" Curran asked a witness. "Please, sir, 
I keep a racket court," was the answer. "So do I," said Lord Norbury 
(himself a bit of a wit) in allusion to the uproar caused by Curran's 
sallies and, indeed, by his own jokes. 

Curran Defends the Rebels 

It was by his defense of the United Irishmen, however, that Curran's 
fame was established. The United Irish Society, originally a constitu- 
tional body, ultimately became a revolutionary organization, whose 
object was the separation of Ireland from England by force of arms. 

Curran was more than the advocate of the United Irishmen. He was 
their friend. Though himself not a separatist, he sympathized with 
their aspirations, and admired the courage and self-sacrifice with which 
they devoted themselves to the national cause. His task was difficult, 
even perilous, but he risked everything for his clients. "In the days," 
says Charles Phillips, "from which he dates his glory, peril beset his 
path, armed men composed his auditory, exasperated authority de- 
nounced his zeal, and faction scowled upon the dauntless advocate it 
burned to make its victim." 

Ibid., pp. 54-55. 

280 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

One of the judges — Lord Carleton — warned him that if he defended 
Samuel Neilson— one of the founders of the United Irish Society — he 
would lose his silk gown. "Well, my lord," said Curran, "his Majesty 
may take the silk, but he will leave the stuff behind." 

In 1794 he defended Hamilton Rowan for seditious libel. The 
United Irishmen of Dublin had issued an address, in 1792, to the 
Volunteers, beginning, "Citizen soldiers," condemning the policy of 
the government, advocating the claims of the Catholics, and calling on 
the nation "to arm" in defense of its liberties. 

Mr. Lecky has described Curran's speech for the defense as "one of 
the most eloquent speeches ever delivered at the Bar." When he rose, 
the court was filled with troops. He said, "Gentlemen of the jury, when 
I consider the period at which this prosecution is brought forward; 
when I behold the extraordinary safeguard of armed soldiers resorted 
to— no doubt for the preservation of peace and order — when I catch, 
as I cannot but do, the throb of public anxiety which beats from one 
end to the other of this hall ... it is in the honest simplicity of my 
heart I speak when I say that I never rose in court of justice with so 
much embarrassment as upon this occasion." 

The finest passage in the speech— one of the finest passages, perhaps, 
in any speech ever delivered at the Bar — was on the justice of "univer- 
sal emancipation," and when Curran issued into the street afterwards, 
his appearance was the signal for a popular ovation. 

He himself has described the scene. The people gathered around 
him. He feared that they might take him off his legs and carry him on 
their shoulders about the town. He begged them to "desist." "I laid 
great emphasis," he says, "on the word desist, and put on my best suit 
of dignity. However, my next neighbor, a gigantic, brawny chairman, 
eyeing me with somewhat of contemptuous affection from top to toe, 
bellowed out to his companions, 'Arrah, blood and turf, Pat, don't 
mind the little crayture; here, pitch him up this minute upon my 
shoulder,' which was accordingly done." 

In 1798, Curran defended the brothers Sheares for high treason. 
They were the sons of a banker in Cork. Both were educated at Trinity 
College, Dublin; both were United Irishmen; both were members of 
the Bar. John, the younger of the two, aged thirty-two, took an active 
part in the movement. He was an organizer, and stood high in the 
confidence of his leaders. Henry, aged forty-five, was not equally im- 
plicated. Indeed, the principal evidence against him was a treasonable 
proclamation found in his desk. It was written by John and put in the 
desk without Henry's knowledge. 

An unscrupulous scoundrel named Armstrong (Captain Armstrong) 

Ireland Without Leaders 281 

wormed himself into the confidence of the brothers, and betrayed 
them. He received the sum of 29,000 pounds — spread over a period 
of sixty years — for this act of infamy. The trial took place on July 4, 
amid a scene of intense public excitement and anxiety. The judges 
acted like partisans, and no consideration was shown either to the 
prisoners or their counsel. After a continuous sitting of sixteen hours, 
Curran asked for a short adjournment. 

"I protest," he said, "I have sunk under this trial. If I must go on, 
the court must bear with me. I will go on until I sink; but after a sit- 
ting of sixteen hours with only twenty minutes' interval, I should hope 
it would not be thought an obtrusive request to ask for a few hours' 
interval of repose and recollection." "What say you, Mr. Attorney- 
General?" said the judge. "My lords," said the Attorney-General 
(Toler, afterwards Lord Norbury), "I cannot consent." "We think it 
better to go on, Mr. Curran," said the judge, hinting at the same 
time that much had been conceded to the prisoners. 

Curran: "Gentlemen of the jury, it seems that much has been con- 
ceded to us. God help us. I do not know what has been conceded to 
me; if so insignificant a person may have extorted the remark. Perhaps 
it is a concession that I am allowed to rise in such a state of mind and 
body, of collapse and deprivation, as to feel but a little spark of indig- 
nation, raised by the remark that much has been conceded to the 
counsel for the prisoners! Much has been conceded to the prisoners. 
Almighty and merciful God, who lookest down upon us, what are the 
times to which we are reserved, when we are told that much has been 
conceded to prisoners who are put upon their trial at a moment like 
this — of more darkness and night of the human intellect than a dark- 
ness of the natural period of twenty-four hours — that public conveni- 
ence cannot spare a few hours to those who are accused for their lives, 
and that much has been conceded to the advocate almost exhausted 
in the poor remarks that he has endeavored to make upon it. My 
countrymen, I do pray you by the awful duty which you owe your 
country — by that sacred duty which you owe your character — and I 
know how you feel it — I do beseech you by Almighty God to have 
mercy upon my client — to save him, not from the consequences of his 
guilt, but from the baseness of his accusers, and the pressure of the 
treatment under which I am sinking." 

On Friday morning, at eight o'clock, the jury returned a verdict of 
guilty. Then the court adjourned for a few hours. At 3 p.m. the pris- 
oners were sentenced to death. On Saturday morning they were 

In July '98, Curran defended Oliver Bond, a wealthy Dublin mer- 

282 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

chant (though a native of Ulster) and a United Irishman. He was one 
of the most powerful men in the organization. It was at his house that 
the Leinster Directory used to hold their meetings. Through the treach- 
ery of an informer— Reynolds — the house was surrounded by military 
in March '98, and the members of the Directory seized. According to 
the practice of the times, the court was filled with soldiers. 

While Curran was addressing the jury, there was a sudden clash of 
arms. "What is that?" he cried. Those who were nearest to him scowled 
fiercely at him, as if they would do him violence. "You may assassinate, 
but you shall not intimidate me," cried the fearless advocate. So great 
was the turmoil, that he had to resume his seat. Three times he rose, 
and three times he had to sit down before he could be heard. "I have 
very little, scarcely any hope," he said, "of being able to discharge my 
duty to my unfortunate client— perhaps most unfortunate in having 
me for his advocate. I know not whether to impute these inhuman 
interruptions to mere accident; but I greatly fear they have been ex- 
cited by prejudice." 

Curran was a member of the Irish House of Commons— from 1783 
to 1797— but his political speeches are not remarkable. He was, of 
course, a staunch Nationalist, and resisted the union like all the incor- 
ruptible Irishmen of the day. 

The Volunteers were disbanded, and the Parliament was destroyed. 
When all was over, Curran was standing one day outside the Parlia- 
ment buildings. A nobleman — who had been ennobled because he had 
voted for the Union — came up and said, "Curran, what do they mean 
to do with that useless building? For my part, I hate even the sight of 
it." "I do not wonder," rejoined Curran. "I never yet heard of a mur- 
derer who was not afraid of a ghost." 

"Is that hung beef, Mr. Curran?" said Lord Norbury (familiarly 
known as the "hanging judge") to Curran at a Viceregal dinner party. 
"No, my lord," was the reply; "your lordship hasn't tried it." 

Curran and a friend were walking together one day at Cheltenham. 
An Irish acquaintance who aped English manners was seen coming 
along lolling his tongue out in a remarkable fashion. "What on earth 
does he mean by that?" said the friend. "He's trying to catch the Eng- 
lish accent," said Curran. 

Ireland Without Leaders 283 

Curran and Robert Emmet 

One dark shadow hangs over the life of Curran — the fate of Robert 
Emmet, the brother of one of the most gifted of the United Irishmen, 
Thomas Addis Emmet, and himself an enthusiastic rebel, the leader 
of the hopeless attempt which a handful of men made to seize Dublin 
Castle in 1803. Emmet loved Curran's daughter Sarah. They were en- 
gaged to be married. 

Curran knew nothing of the facts. He saw Emmet frequently at his 
house, but suspected nothing. Then the rising came. After its suppres- 
sion Emmet could have escaped. But he wished to see Sarah Curran 
once more. He concealed himself in a house near Curran's. He wrote 
to Sarah — tried to see her. Then his hiding place was discovered. He 
was arrested. His relations with Sarah Curran became public. Curran's 
house was searched for papers, and Curran himself had to undergo 
an examination before his inveterate enemy, Lord Clare. Curran was 
indignant. He refused to defend Emmet, refused even to see the 
doomed rebel. 

"I did not expect you," wrote Emmet, "to be my counsel. I nom- 
inated you because not to have done so might have appeared remark- 
able. Had Mr. B been in town, I did not wish even to have seen 

you, but as he was not I wrote to you to come to me at once. I know 
that I have done you a very severe injury, much greater than I can 
atone for with my life; that atonement I did offer to make before the 
Privy Council by pleading guilty, if those documents were suppressed." 

Then, referring to his love for Sarah Curran, and to Curran's refusal 
to see him, he concluded: 

"I know not whether this" (his love for Sarah) "will be any exten- 
uation of my offense — I know not whether it will be any extenuation of 
it to know that if I had the first 'situation' in the land in my power 
at this moment I would relinquish it to devote my life to her happi- 
ness. I know not whether success would have blotted out the recol- 
lection of what I have done; but I know that a man with the coldness 
of death on him need not be made to feel any other coldness, and that 
he may be spared any addition to the misery he feels not for himself 
but for those to whom he has left nothing but sorrow." 

On September 20, 1803, Emmet was hanged; he was only twenty- 
four. Sarah Curran spent the rest of her days in England, where she 
died in 1808. Moore has enshrined her memory in immortal lines: 

Ibid., pp. 55-56. 

284 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

She is far from the land where her young hero sleeps, 

And lovers around her sighing; 
But coldly she turns from their gaze, and weeps, 

For her heart in the grave is lying. 
She sings the wild songs of her dear native plains, 

Every note which he loved awaking; 
Ahl little they think, who delight in her strains, 

How the heart of the minstrel is breaking. 

He had lived for his love, for his country he died, 

They were all that to life had entwined him; 
Nor soon shall the tears of his country be dried, 

Nor long will his love stay behind him. 
Oh! make her a grave where the sunbeams rest 

When they promise a glorious morrow; 
They'll shine o'er her sleep, like a smile from the West, 

For her own loved island of sorrow. 

Robert Emmet, on Being Found Guilty of Treason^ 

My Lords: — What have I to say why sentence of death should not be 
pronounced on me according to law? I have nothing to say that can 
alter your predetermination, nor that it will become me to say with 
any view to the mitigation of that sentence which you are here to 
pronounce, and I must abide by. But I have that to say which interests 

From The World's Famous Orations, Williams Jennings Bryan, editor-in-chief, 
Vol. VI, pp. 137-148. Copyright, 1906, by Funk & Wagnalls Co. New York. 

• Delivered at the Session House in Dublin before the court which had convicted 
him of high treason, September 19, 1803. Emmet, at that time only twenty-three 
years old, had taken part in a rebellion against the government. The famous address 
here given was an impromptu one, delivered while Emmet stood forward in the 
dock in front of the bench. Curran's daughter, to whom Emmet was engaged, and 
of whom Moore wrote the poem beginning, "She is far from the land where her 
young hero sleeps," two years afterward married an officer of some distinction in the 
Royal Staff Corps, Major Sturgeon. She died in Sicily a few months later — it is said 
of a broken heart. 

Born in 1778, died in 1803: became a leader of the United Irishmen, and in 1803 
led an unsuccessful rising in Dublin; escaping to the mountains he returned to 
Dublin to take leave of his fiancee, Sarah Curran, daughter ot the orator, and was 
captured and hanged.— VV.J.B. 

Ireland Without Leaders 285 

me more than life, and which you have labored (as was necessarily 
your office in the present circumstances of this oppressed country) to 
destroy. I have much to say why my reputation should be rescued from 
the load of false accusation and calumny which has been heaped upon 
it. I do not imagine that, seated where you are, your minds can be so 
free from impurity as to receive the least impression from what I am 
going to utter — I have no hopes that I can anchor my character in the 
breasts of a court constituted and trammeled as this is — I only wish, 
and it is the utmost I expect, that your lordships may suffer it to float 
down your memories untainted by the foul breath of prejudice, until 
it finds some more hospitable harbor to shelter it from the storm by 
which it is at present buffeted. 

Was I only to suffer death after being adjudged guilty by your 
tribunal, I should bow in silence, and meet the fate that awaits me 
without a murmur; but the sentence of law which delivers my body to 
the executioner, will, through the ministry of that law, labor in its 
own vindication to consign my character to obloquy — for there must 
be guilt somewhere: whether in the sentence of the court or in the 
catastrophe, posterity must determine. A man in my situation, my 
lords, has not only to encounter the difficulties of fortune, and the force 
of power over minds which it has corrupted or subjugated, but the 
difficulties of established prejudice: the man dies, but his memory lives. 
That mine may not perish, that it may live in the respect of my coun- 
trymen, I seize upon this opportunity to vindicate myself from some of 
the charges alleged against me. When my spirit shall be wafted to a 
more friendly port; when my shade shall have joined the bands of 
those martyred heroes who have shed their blood on the scaffold and 
in the field, in defense of their country and of virtue, this is my hope: 
I wish that my memory and name may animate those who survive me, 
while I look down with complacency on the destruction of that per- 
fidious government which upholds its domination by blasphemy of the 
Most High — which displays its power over man as over the beasts of 
the forest — which sets man upon his brother, and lifts his hand in the 
name of God against the throat of his fellow who believes or doubts 
a little more or a little less than the government standard — a govern- 
ment which is steeled to barbarity by the cries of the orphans and the 
tears of the widows which it has made.* 

I appeal to the immaculate God — I swear by the throne of Heaven, 

• At this period Lord Norbury interrupted Emmet, saying severely, that the 
mean and wicked enthusiasts who felt as he did "were not equal to the accomplish- 
ment of their wild designs." — W.J.B. 

286 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

before which I must shortly appear— by the blood of the murdered 
patriots who have gone before me— that my conduct has been through 
all this peril and all my purposes, governed only by the convictions 
which I have uttered, and by no other view, than that of their cure, 
and the emancipation of my country from the superinhuman oppres- 
sion under which she has so long and too patiently travailed; and that 
I confidently and assuredly hope that, wild and chimerical as it may 
appear, there is still union and strength in Ireland to accomplish this 
noble enterprise. Of this I speak with the confidence of intimate knowl- 
edge, and with the consolation that appertains to that confidence. 
Think not, my lords, I say this for the petty gratification of giving 
you a transitory uneasiness; a man who never yet raised his voice to 
assert a lie, will not hazard his character with posterity by asserting a 
falsehood on a subject so important to his country, and on an occasion 
like this. Yes, my lords, a man who does not wish to have his epitaph 
written until his country is liberated, will not leave a weapon in the 
power of envy; nor a pretense to impeach the probity which he means 
to preserve even in the grave to which tyranny consigns him.* 

Again I say, that what I have spoken, was not intended for your 
lordship, whose situation I commiserate rather than envy— my expres- 
sions were for my countrymen; if there is a true Irishman present, let 
my last words cheer him in the hour of his affliction.! 

I have always understood it to be the duty of a judge when a pris- 
oner has been convicted, to pronounce the sentence of the law; I have 
also understood that judges sometimes think it their duty to hear with 
patience, and to speak with humanity; to exhort the victims of the 
laws, and to offer with tender benignity his opinions of the motives 
by which he was actuated in the crime, of which he had been adjudged 
guilty: that a judge has thought it his duty so to have done, I have no 
doubt— but where is the boasted freedom of your institutions, where is 
the vaunted impartiality, clemency, and mildness of your courts of 
justice, if an unfortunate prisoner, whom your policy, and not pure 
justice, is about to deliver into the hands of the executioner, is not 
suffered to explain his motives sincerely and truly, and to vindicate the 
principles by which he was actuated? 

My lords, it may be a part of the system of angry justice, to bow a 
man's mind by humiliation to the purposed ignominy of the scaffold; 

• Here he was again interrupted by the court. W.J.B. 

t Again Emmet was interrupted, Lord Norbury saying he did not sit there to 
hear treason. — W.J.B. 

Ireland Without Leaders 287 

but worse to me than the purposed shame, or the scaffold's terrors, 
would be the shame of such unfounded imputations as have been laid 
against me in this court: you, my lord [Lord Norbury], are a judge, 
I am the supposed culprit; I am a man, you are a man also; by a revo- 
lution of power, we might change places, tho we never could change 
characters; if I stand at the bar of this court, and dare not vindicate 
my character, what a farce is your justice? If I stand at this bar and 
dare not vindicate my character, how dare you calumniate it? Does the 
sentence of death which your unhallowed policy inflicts on my body, 
also condemn my tongue to silence and my reputation to reproach? 
Your executioner may abridge the period of my existence, but while 
I exist I shall not forbear to vindicate my character and motives from 
your aspersions; and as a man to whom fame is dearer than life, I will 
make the last use of that life in doing justice to that reputation which 
is to live after me, and which is the only legacy I can leave to those I 
honor and love, and for whom I am proud to perish. As men, my lord, 
we must appear at the great day at one common tribunal, and it will 
then remain for the searcher of all hearts to show a collective universe 
who was engaged in the most virtuous actions, or actuated by the 
purest motives — my country's oppressors or • 

My lord, will a dying man be denied the legal privilege of exculpat- 
ing himself, in the eyes of the community, of an undeserved reproach 
thrown upon him during his trial, by charging him with ambition, and 
attempting to cast away, for a paltry consideration, the liberties of his 
country? Why did your lordship insult me? or rather why insult jus- 
tice, in demanding of me why sentence of death should not be pro- 
nounced? I know, my lord, that form prescribes that you should ask 
the question; the form also presumes a right of answering. This no 
doubt may be dispensed with — and so might the whole ceremony of 
trial, since sentence was already pronounced at the castle, before your 
jury was impaneled; your lordships are but the priests of the oracle, 
and I submit; but I insist on the whole of the forms. 

I am charged with being an emissary of Francel An emissary of 
Francel And for what end? It is alleged that I wished to sell the inde- 
pendence of my countryl And for what end? Was this the object of my 
ambition? And is this the mode by which a tribunal of justice recon- 
ciles contradictions? No, I am no emissary; and my ambition was to 
hold a place among the deliverers of my country — not in power, nor in 
profit, but in the glory of the achievement! Sell my country's inde- 
pendence to Francel And for what? Was it for a change of masters? 

• Here Emmet was told to listen to the sentence of the law. — W.J.B. 

288 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

Nol But for ambition I O ray country, was it personal ambition that 
could influence me? Had it been the soul of my actions, could I not 
by my education and fortune, by the rank and consideration of my 
family, have placed myself among the proudest of my oppressors? My 
country was ray idol; to it I sacrificed every selfish, every endearing 
sentiment; and for it, I now offer up my life. O God! No, ray lord; I 
acted as an Irishman, determined on delivering my country from the 
yoke of a foreign and unrelenting tyranny, and from the more galling 
yoke of a domestic faction, which is its joint partner and perpetrator 
in the parricide, for the ignominy of existing with an exterior of splen- 
dor and of conscious depravity. It was the wish of my heart to extricate 
my country from this doubly riveted despotism. 

I wished to place her independence beyond the reach of any power 
on earth; I wished to exalt you to that proud station in the world. 

Be yet patientl I have but a few words more to say. I am going to 
my cold and silent grave: my lamp of life is nearly extinguished: my 
race is run: the grave opens to receive me, and I sink into its bosoml 
I have but one request to ask at ray departure from this world — it is 
the charity of its silencel Let no man write ray epitaph: for as no man 
who knows my motives dare now vindicate them, let not prejudice or 
ignorance asperse them. Let them and me repose in obscurity and 
peace, and ray tomb remain uninscribed, until other times, and other 
men, can do justice to ray character; when my country takes her place 
among the nations of the earth, then, and not till then, let my epitaph 
be written. I have done.* 

The Story of Sarah Curran 

Among the many pathetic figures in the galaxy of Irish heroines 
stands the slender and drooping form of Sarah Curran, daughter of 

• At his execution Emmet, in passing out of his cell, met the turnkey who had 
been kind to him. Fettered as he was he could not shake hands with him, but 
instead kissed him on the cheek. The turnkey is said to have fainted then and there 
and not to have recovered until after Emmet was hanged and his head severed from 
hit body.— W.J.B. 

By Geraldine M. Haverty, in The Gael, March, 1901, pp. 96-98. New York. 

Ireland Without Leaders 289 

John Philpot Curran, and betrothed of the ill-fated young patriot, 
Robert Emmet. 

Her fate was the more touching because of the extreme gentleness 
of her character, and the utter lack of glory or excitement in her 
life of great sorrow. Hers was a passive and unmarked career. Heroine 
she could scarcely be called, save for the ennobling influence of a 
great trouble. 

A lonely childhood was hers. Her mother had deserted husband and 
children when Sarah was but a mere child, and this unhappy act had 
the effect of making the father, for a period at least, treat his children 
with marked coldness and severity. As they grew up, we have little 
evidences that he was a most affectionate and attentive parent, but it 
is, nevertheless, true that Sarah, at least, seemed to feel the effect of 
these early years of sternness. Hers was a peculiarly timid and reserved 
nature, and it was this very fear and timidity that was the cause of 
much of the trouble that overwhelmed her in later years. 

It was at a ball given in her honor at the house of Mr. Lambart, 
Rath Castle, in Wicklow, that Sarah Curran and Robert Emmet first 
met. The meeting was signalized on his side by the sudden develop- 
ment of a passion that was as lasting as it was fiery. Sarah, on the 
contrary, was quite untouched. She was either indifferent to the hand- 
some and dashing young patriot, or, else, was afraid of him. A delicate 
flower was she, pale and slender, with a crown of golden hair, and a 
refined patrician style of face and manner. Barely seventeen, unused to 
the world, and much in awe of her father, it might be easily guessed 
that she hesitated to encourage the addresses of any suitor, especially 
one who would prove so unpleasing to her father, as a visionary, reck- 
less, and extremely revolutionary young student. 

In Trinity, where Emmet was a student, he was at this time some- 
what under a cloud, on account of his known political opinions. A 
formal investigation had been made by the Chancellor (afterwards 
Lord Clare) in which all the students were examined under oath. 
One writer says: 

"There were a few — amongst the number poor Robert Emmet — 
whose total absence from the scene, as well as the silence that followed 
the calling out of his name, proclaimed how deep had been his share 
in the transactions now to be inquired into." 

- / 

It was just at this period of his career that he met Sarah Curran, 
and another incentive to action was added to his violent patriotism, 
in the shape of an ambition to win honors and triumphs which he 

290 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

could lay at the feet of his gentle lady. "I must make myself worthy 
of the woman of my choice," he said to a confidante, "and the glory 
which sheds its lustre on the husband shall reflect its splendor on the 

At first, she gave him no encouragement whatever. His frequent 
visits to her father's house (where he was always welcome, his father 
and Curran having been close friends) were probably attributed by 
the unobservant parent to a natural pleasure taken in his own society 
by ambitious or admiring friends. 

It was not until after he had returned from Paris, whence he should 
have sailed to join his brother, Thomas Addis, in America, and his 
secret plots and affiliations being in part discovered, he was in some 
danger, that sympathy began to enlist her affections. 

"Afterwards," Emmet writes in his letter to Curran after his arrest, 
"I had reason to suppose that discoveries were made, and that I should 
be obliged to quit the kingdom immediately, and I came to make a 
renunciation of any approach to friendship that might have been 
formed. ... I then for the first time, found, when I was unfortunate, 
by the manner in which she was affected, that there was a return of 
affection, and that it was too late to retreat." 

Among the predominant traits in Robert Emmet's character, and 
the ones which most certainly foiled his plans and made him an easy 
prey to the spies and informers of the day, were his simplicity and 
unsuspicious truthfulness. He was "confident of success," says Madden, 
"exaggerating its prospects, extenuating the difficulties which beset 
him, judging of others by himself, thinking associates honest who had 
seemed so, and animated, or rather inflamed, by a burning sense of 
the wrongs of his country, and an enthusiasm in his devotion to what 
he considered its rightful cause." 

It is strange that he should not have given a thought to the danger 
to which he was exposing a young and very innocent and simple- 
minded girl. If Sarah Curran had any ideas of patriotism, she never 
seemed to have expressed them. She was not the stuff of which patriots 
are made. The task of braving her lover's departure probably had far 
greater terrors for her than had the project of defying the whole 
British government for her lover. Yet her constancy was unswerving. 
She carried on a constant correspondence with him, through the 
medium of Miss Lambart, whose part in the matter was, to say the 
least, injudicious. Finally, the storm broke. The little insurrection, so 
excellently planned, so ill carried out, was soon over. The lack of 
anything like concerted action was evident. The Wicklow men, not 
being ordered, had not arrived; the Kildare men were turned back; 

Ireland Without Leaders 291 

the Wexford contingent came and remained waiting for orders, which 
never came. Other bodies of men were waiting in convenient places 
for signals which were not given. All this gives evidence of traitors in 
the ranks, and when, to crown all, a false alarm "The army is upon 
us" was suddenly given, Emmet determined to sally forth, and meet 
death in the street, if need be, rather than remain cooped up in ignor- 
ance. Even yet, all might have been saved, had it not been for the 
murder of Lord Kilwarden; but, on hearing of that lamentable act, 
the unhappy leader gave up all hope, and fled precipitately. 

Curran's first news of the whole business was gained next morning, 
when he found a detachment of soldiers, under Major Sirr, waiting 
for him outside "The Priory," with the information that they were 
to search his house for evidences of complicity in the transactions of 
the preceding night. 

"Almost thunderstruck," says Curran, "I at once proffered every 
facility in my power. To my utter amazement a correspondence of 
which I had not even a suspicion was discovered." A severe blow this 
to a man of Curran's prominence in public matters. 

The unfortunate prime mover in the matter was lying hidden at 
Harold's Cross, a spot halfway between Dublin and "The Priory." He 
might have escaped, had it not been for a Quixotic resolution of seeing 
once more his lady-love, and personally begging her forgiveness for 
the calamities he had brought upon her. Even after his discovery and 
arrest, he, with characteristic simplicity, entrusted a letter addressed 
to Sarah, to a person employed about the jail. The unknown messen- 
ger pocketed the money, given by Emmet, and promptly delivered the 
letter to the authorities. On hearing this, the unhappy young con- 
spirator, in despair lest he should still further have committed her in 
the eyes of the law, addressed a letter to the government in which he 
engaged himself to submit to his fate without one word in his own 
defense, provided the letter was suppressed. 

Curran's refusal to defend Emmet can hardly be wondered at, in 
view of the circumstances and of the fact that he himself stood on 
delicate ground in Irish matters. His fellow-lawyers, however, stood by 
him to a man, with the exception, of course, of Fitzgibbon, afterwards 
Lord Clare, long a bitter rival of the brilliant advocate. 

The trial and sentence, however, were but a foregone conclusion. 
"Pray do not attempt to defend me," Emmet said to his counsel Bar- 
rowes. "It is all in vain." 

Sarah Curran failed, slowly but surely, after the tragic death of her 
lover. She left her father's house not as some have said, because or- 


292 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

dered by him (Curran was not a hard-hearted man, and had been very 
fond of this delicate, timid child) but for various reasons — change of 
air, and separation from the scenes of so much sorrow. She stayed at 
Cork, with some Quaker friends named Penrose. She was petted and 
consoled by all who knew her, but the memory of the gallows and the 
nameless grave of her beloved seemed always before her mind. She 
moved like a shadow among the gayest scenes. 

Washington Irving says: "She did not object to frequent the haunts 
of pleasure but she was as much alone there as in the depths of soli- 
tude. She walked about in a sad reverie, apparently unconscious of 
the world about her." 

The story of one so true and tender could not but excite interest in 
a country remarkable for enthusiasm. It completely won the heart of 
a brave officer, who paid his addresses to her, and thought that one 
so true to the dead could not but prove affectionate to the living. She 
declined his attentions, for her thoughts were irrevocably engrossed 
by the thought of her former lover. He, however, persisted in his 
suit. He solicited, not her tenderness, but her esteem. He was assisted 
by her conviction of his worth, and her sense of her own destitute and 
dependent situation, for she was existing on the kindness of friends. 
In a word, he succeeded in gaining her hand, though with a solemn 
assurance that her heart was unalterably another's. 

The marriage was thus recorded in the Hibernian Magazine: "Feb- 
ruary, 1806, at Cork, Captain R. H. Sturgeon, of the Royal Staff Corps, 
and nephew to the late Lord Rockingham, to Miss Sarah Curran, 
daughter of John P. Curran." 

The fact that the marriage took place at Cork, instead of at her 
father's house, as well as Irving's conviction that she was living on the • 
charity of friends, seems to indicate that her father had really cast her 
off. Her husband took her to Italy, in the vain hope of reviving her 
wasted strength and repairing her broken heart, but nothing could 
cure her silent and devouring melancholy. "She tried to be an exem- 
plary wife, but was never a happy one." A little incident which hap- 
pened months after her marriage showed how deeply her thoughts 
were rooted in the past. 

A portrait of Emmet, as he appeared at his trial, had been painted 
by George Petrie, from sketches which he had taken at the time. 

The artist's little son, alone in the studio one day, saw a closely 
veiled lady enter, who did not notice this boy, but walked up to the 
easel, and after gazing long in silence on the pictured face, broke into 
a passion of grief which seemed to the frightened child, crouching in 
his corner, to last an hour. After this K urst of sorrow was over, she 



Ireland Without Leaders 293 

controlled herself and left the room. Long afterwards, the boy learned 
from his father that the visitor had been Sarah Curran, coming by 
appointment, to see her dead love's portrait, on condition that she 
should meet no member of the family. 

... If her family had really been estranged from her in life they 
at least received her after her death, for she was buried at Newmarket 
in the same tomb with Curran's mother, Sarah Philpot. Her husband 
was killed six years later, in the war of 1814. 

Wolfe Tone, on Being Found Guilty of Treason* 

I mean not to give you the trouble of bringing judicial proof to 
convict me legally of having acted in hostility to the government of 
his Britannic majesty in Ireland. I admit the fact. From my earliest 
youth I have regarded the connection between Great Britain and Ire- 
land as the curse of the Irish nation, and felt convinced that, while 
it lasted, this country could never be free nor happy. My mind has 
been confirmed in this opinion by the experience of every succeeding 
year, and the conclusions which I have drawn from every fact before 
my eyes. In consequence, I was determined to employ all the powers 
which my individual efforts could move, in order to separate the two 
countries. That Ireland was not able to herself to throw off the yoke, 
I knew; I therefore sought for aid wherever it was to be found. In 

From The World's Famous Orations, William Jennings Bryan, editor-in-chief, 
Vol. VI, pp. 132-136. Copyright, 1906. by Funk & Wagnalls Co. New York. 

* Addressed to the court-martial assembled to try him in the Dublin barracks in 
November, 1798. Tone is described as having been "dressed in the French uniform; 
a large cocked hat with broad gold lace and the tri-colored cockade; a blue uni- 
form coat with gold -embroidered collar and two large gold epaulettes; blue 
pantaloons with gold lace garters at the knee, and short boots bound at the top 
with gold lace." He was found guilty and sentenced to death on his own confession. 
His request that he might be shot, instead of hanged, and thus die a soldier's death, 
was refused. While awaiting execution he committed suicide in order to escape 
the gallows. 

The Irish revolt had begun in the year of Tone's arrest and conviction — 1798. 
It was suppressed about a year later after many thousands of lives had been lost on 
each side. 

Born in 1763, died in 1798; promoted and served in the Expedition of Hoche to 
Ireland in 1796; captured on a French squadron bound for Ireland in 1798; on 
being sentenced to death, he committed suicide. — W.J.B. 

294 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

honorable poverty I rejected offers which, to a man in my circum- 
stances, might be considered highly advantageous. I remained faithful 
to what I thought the cause of my country, and sought in the French 
Republic an ally to rescue three millions of my countrymen. 

Attached to no party in the French Republic— without interest, 
without money, without intrigue— the openness and integrity of my 
views raised me to a high and confidential rank in its armies. I obtained 
the confidence of the executive directory, the approbation of my gen- 
erals, and I will venture to add, the esteem and affection of my brave 
comrades. When I review these circumstances, I feel a secret and in- 
ternal consolation, which no reverse of fortune, no sentence in the 
power of this court to inflict, can deprive me of, or weaken in any 
degree. Under the flag of the French Republic I originally engaged 
with a view to save and liberate my own country. For that purpose I 
have encountered the chances of war among strangers; for that purpose 
I repeatedly braved the terrors of the ocean, covered, as I knew it to be, 
with the triumphant fleets of that power which it was my glory and 
my duty to oppose. I have sacrificed all my views in life; I have courted 
poverty; I have left a beloved wife unprotected, and children whom I 
adored fatherless. 

After such a sacrifice, in a cause which I have always considered — 
conscientiously considered — as the cause of justice and freedom, it is 
no great effort, at this day, to add the sacrifice of my life. 

But I hear it is said that this unfortunate country has been a prey 
to all sorts of horrors. I sincerely lament it. I beg, however, that it may 
be remembered that I have been absent four years from Ireland. To 
me those sufferings can never be attributed. I designed by fair and 
open war to procure a separation of two countries. For open war I was 
prepared, but instead of that a system of private assassination has taken 
place. I repeat, while I deplore it, that it is not chargeable on me. 
Atrocities, it seems, have been committed on both sides. I do not less 
deplore them. I detest them from my heart; and to those who know 
my character and sentiments, I may safely appeal for the truth of this 
assertion: with them I need no justification. In a case like this success 
is everything. Success, in the eyes of the vulgar, fixes its merits. Wash- 
ington succeeded, and Kosciusko failed. 

After a combat nobly sustained — a combat which would have excited 
the respect and sympathy of a generous enemy — my fate has been to 
become a prisoner, to the eternal disgrace of those who gave the orders. 
I was brought here in irons like a felon. I mention this for the sake 
of others; for me, I am indifferent to it. I am aware of the fate which 
awaits me, and scorn equally the tone of complaint, and that of sup- 

Ireland Without Leaders 295 

plication. As to the connection between this country and Great Britain, 
I repeat it — all that has been imputed to me (words, writings, and 
actions), I here deliberately avow. I have spoken and acted with re- 
flection, and on principle, and am ready to meet the consequences. 
Whatever be the sentence of the court, I am prepared for it. Its mem- 
bers will surely discharge their duty— I shall take care not to be want- 
ing in mine. 

I wish to offer a few words relative to one single point— the mode of 
punishment. In France our emigrees, who stand nearly in the same 
situation in which I now stand before you, are condemned to be shot. 
I ask that the court adjudge me the death of a soldier, and let me be 
shot by a platoon of grenadiers. I request this indulgence rather in 
consideration of the uniform I wear— the uniform of a chef de bridage 
in the French army — than from any personal regard to myself. In order 
to evince my claim to this favor, I beg that the court may take the 
trouble to peruse my commission and letters of service in the French 
army. It will appear from these papers that I have not received them as 
a mask to cover me, but that I have been long and bona fide an officer 
in the French service. 

I have labored to create a people in Ireland by raising three millions 
of my countrymen to the rank of citizens. I have labored to abolish the 
infernal spirit of religious persecution, by uniting the Catholics 
and Dissenters. To the former I owe more than ever can be repaid. The 
services I was so fortunate as to render them they rewarded muni- 
ficently; but they did more: when the public cry was raised against 
me — when the friends of my youth swarmed off and let me alone — the 
Catholics did not desert me; they had the virtue even to sacrifice their 
own interests to a rigid principle of honor; they refused, tho strongly 
/ urged, to disgrace a man who, whatever his conduct toward the govern- 
ment might have been, had faithfully and conscientiously discharged 
his duty toward them; and in so doing, tho it was in my own case, 
I will say they showed an instance of public virtue of which I know 
not whether there exists another example.* 


• This paragraph in Tone's speech was long suppressed, being first published in 
1859, with the "correspondence" of Cornwallis, lhe lord-lieutenant of Ireland of 
1790.— W.J. B. 

Part V 



"Here I would conclude with our buildings, but when I look 
about I cannot but bewail the desolation which civil rebellion hath 
procured. It looks like the later end of a feast. Here lieth an old 
ruined castle like the remainder of a venison pasty, there a broken 
fort like a minced pie half subjected, and in another place an old 
abbey with some turrets standing like a carcase of a goose broken up. 
It makes me remember the old proverb: it is better to come to the 
end of a feast than the beginning of a fray." 

Justice Luke Gernon 

Written by Justice Luke Gemon. an English resident in Ireland (1620). From 
Ireland from the Flight of the Earls to Grattan's Parliament, compiled and 
edited by James Carty. C. J. Fallon. Dublin. 1949. 



Not all political leaders have the sort of personality that makes 
such impact on the people as to give them the status of heroes. Ireland 
produced two that had this sort of personality: O'Connell and Parnell. 
The Parnell who appears in the piece below is Parnell on the defen- 
sive; he has been discredited by a divorce action and public opinion 
is being whipped up against him. But it is this Parnell. the Parnell 
within a year of his death, fighting for a leadership that he knows is 
essential to the cause, who makes the greatest impression on the public 
mind — the tragic hero. In the United States the exiled revolutionist, 
Thomas Francis Meagher, hoists the green flag on battlefields fought 
over by the Federal army. At home and abroad an array of colorful 
characters give a sense of adventurousness and high-spiritedness to a 
people engaged in a national struggle that has its rises and falls. — P.C. 


Daniel O'Connell 

Prince Puckler-Muskau visited him in his home in Kerry when, 
then around fifty, O'Connell was an outstanding European figure, 
with victory in sight for the great movement he headed — Catholic 
Emancipation. The German prince thought he looked like a general 
of Napoleon's: "The resemblance is indeed more striking by the 
perfection with which he speaks French." A generation earlier and 
Daniel O'Connell would probably have been in the French army: his 
uncle, Count O'Connell, was the last Colonel of the Irish Brigade in 
the service of France. 

Puckler-Muskau noted the histrionic quality that was in O'Connell 
— a quality that probably went to make him the great advocate that 
he was. His manners which were very democratic had something of 
the stage in them. "They do not conceal his very high opinion of him- 
self and are occasionally tinged with what an Englishman would call 
vulgarity." The sculptor of the heroic statue of him in Dublin was 
aware of this histrionic quality: with his cloak thrown back from his 
shoulder he has O'Connell enact the Chieftain. 

"The Liberator!" Irish people of the last two generations have 
difficulty in realizing what that popularly conferred title meant. 
They know that the O'Connell epoch ended in disaster. His constitu- 
tionalism ("the golden link of the Crown") was ignored by the British 
and came to be bitterly rejected by the Irish. His dissociation of politics 
from the national tradition is for the generations influenced by the 
Gaelic League incomprehensible. With Irish as a native speech and 
addressing vast crowds for whom it was native, he never used Irish 
publicly, snubbed people who presented him with works in Irish, and 
let it be understood that he would welcome the demise of the language. 
Yes, at the moment it is hard to recover what "The Liberator" meant 
for the people of the sixties, seventies, and eighties. 

Yet O'Connell was an uplifting force for Ireland, and it is not too 
much to say that he was a precipitating force in Europe. He took 
democracy out of what in modern terms would be the "cells" and 
brought it into the open. What in Europe was an affair of secret 
societies, he turned into immense demonstrations — a hundred thou- 
sand rent-paying fanners stretching round a platform from which a 

By the editor. 

New Leaders at Home and Abroad 301 

great Parliamentarian told them he could drive a coach-and-four 
through any act of Parliament. 

Certain understandable things made O'Connell curb the revolu- 
tionary movement that his demonstrations tended to; and this, in the 
second part of his career, led to national frustration. Only a forceful 
movement could have saved Ireland from the disaster that was just 
round the corner, and the man who had already won Catholic Eman- 
cipation would not and could not sponsor forcefulness. Essentially a 
man of the feudal age, he had been appalled by the excesses of the 
revolution in his second country, France. The peasant rising in Ire- 
land in 1798 had only resulted in severer repression. As a lawyer and 
a Parliamentarian, he had too great a faith in Constitutionalism. Then 
he had a private reason for discounting the use of arms: his shot had 
put his antagonist on his deathbed, in a duel he had been forced 
into. Always histrionic, O'Connell wore a black glove on the hand 
that had held the pistol, and always humane, he gave a pension to the 
family of the man whose death was due to him. 

"The great tragedian and the great comedian of the Irish race," 
Yeats said, comparing Parnell with O'Connell. But to understand how 
the great comedian affected the country, we have to place him in his 
epoch. Ireland was still under the Penal Laws when he came on the 
scene: Irish Catholics might not own land, educate their children at 
home or abroad, carry a sword as gentlemen did in those days, own 
a horse worth ten pounds or over, nor take a place in the Legislature. 
However, the harshness of the laws was mitigated by the natural kindli- 
ness of people: there were still Catholic gentry: they held their an- 
cestral estates through the good-hearted contrivance of Protestant 
neighbours in whose names the title-deeds to many ancient estates were 
held and who never reneged on their trusts; and as for education, no 
one informed when the sons of neighbouring families went to schools 
abroad. Very often a Protestant gentleman would have a priest come 
to his house as a tutor (Oliver Goldsmith was taught French by a 
priest). A Protestant young man who had had a Catholic nurse would 
recognize the nurse's son as his foster-brother, and in Ireland in those 
days the tie of fosterage was strong. Below the gentry there were 
agrarian middlemen who lived well, and in many parts of the country 
there were farmers under decent landlords who were prosperous. Uut 
the generality of the people of the countryside, the tenant-farmers, were 
as burthened as the French peasants of the old regime. The rents 
they paid were exorbitant and could be increased at the will of the 
landlord; one-tenth of their produce every year went to the upkeep 
of a church that in most places had no congregation; they were ex- 

302 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

pected to be quite abject when paying rents or asking for a renewal of 
lease. And the rents, uneconomic as they were, and the tithes to the 
Established Church were not the only exactions that the family of the 
tenant-farmer had to put up with. Says Thady in Maria Edgeworth's 
Castle Rackrent, "duty fowls and duty turkeys and duty geese came 
as fast as we could eat 'em, for my lady kept a sharp look-out, and 
knew to a tub of butter everything the tenant had, all round. They 
knew her way, and what with fear of driving for rent, and Sir Mur- 
tagh's lawsuits, they were kept in such good order, they never thought 
of coming near Castle Rackrent without a present of something or 
other — eggs, honey, butter, meal, fish, game, grouse, and herrings, 
fresh and salt, all went for something. As for their young pigs, we had 
them, and the best bacon and hams they could make up, with all the 
young chickens in spring." 

The abjectness of people without any security and brought close 
to destitution was what O'Connell first of all had to cope with. He 
belonged to the Catholic gentry, was educated in France, and at the 
outset of his career showed himself as an advocate and an orator of 
mark. Those who profited by the system that left the great part of the 
population helpless and near destitute insolently named themselves 
"The Ascendancy." It was to denude this "Ascendancy" of their social, 
moral, and intellectual authority that O'Connell used his immense 
powers. And it is as the destroyer of "The Ascendancy" that he be- 
comes the folk-hero of modern Ireland — "The Liberator." 

"To upraise and vindicate theml" This in the words of his son 
was how the people, who thronged round his carriage and went down 
on their knees to invoke blessings and mercies on him, regarded 
O'Connell's labors. And if we would witness these labors at their 
noblest we should read with imagination and some historical per- 
ception his conduct of the defence of John Magee, on trial for a 
libel on the Viceroy. The Attorney General had packed the jury; not 
only were Catholics excluded, but all Protestants — and they were num- 
erous in Dublin — who were known to be liberal or patriotic. That 
the case was lost before it was pleaded, O'Connell knew. But like the 
man of genius that he was, he turned what might have been looked 
on with consternation into opportunity — the opportunity of arraign- 
ing the court, and beyond the court "The Ascendancy" which had put 
itself in a place where it could be stripped, not only of moral, but of 
legal authority. 

O'Connell's procedure was magnificent: with his tremendous vitu- 
perative powers he could have brought the court down into the gutter. 
But that would have been only a partial victory. A superiority was to 

New Leaders at Home and Abroad 303 

be asserted. And so against the ignobility of "The Ascendancy" appears 
the dignity of those whom they would control. Grandeur enters the 
courtroom: it is the grandeur of O'Connell's mind and O'Connell's 
style, but it appears as the grandeur of a people. 

O'Connell's defence of John Magee forces a comparison with Cur- 
ran's defence of Peter Finerty. Personally, the editor, if a choice could 
have been made, would prefer to have heard Curran. Using the word 
in its widest sense, Curran was more spiritual than O'Connell and he 
had the supreme gift of the orator — the power to throw out phrases 
that stay in the memory; when he spoke for Peter Finerty he spoke not 
only with the accomplishment of the advocate, not only with the inner 
conviction of the poet that he was, but with the exaltedness of the 
prophet. As a performance, however, O'Connell's defence — or, rather, 
his arraignment — cannot be surpassed. Curran, speaking at an earlier 
time, could appeal to the eighteenth century's rationalities. O'Connell, 
speaking at a time of bitter partisanship, speaking, too, as a half out- 
law, had hurdles to surmount. The performance he gave and sus- 
tained, even as a feat of physical endurance, was tremendous. Here, 
indeed, he was the up-raiser and the vindicator of "the Irishry." 

Parnell has come into Irish folklore and so has Dean Swift, but 
O'Connell was born and reared to be in folklore. That the belated 
heroic age persisted around his patrimony up to the time he was born, 
we know from the dirge his aunt made for her husband. He was an 
officer in the Imperial army, but when he returned to Ireland he could 
be allowed the condition of gentleman only by sufferance. Part of the 
condition was to have a horse that exceeded the value of ten pounds. 
In a dispute about such a mount, Art O'Leary was shot to death by 
one who ranked as gentleman. The dirge that "Dark Ellen" made 
for him in Irish might belong to the time of Queen Gormlai, but 
Gormlai would not be so unrestrained. Daniel O'Connell of Derry- 
nane, in Kerry (Daniel was the English of Donhnal, Donald, anciently 
a royal name) lived in a time when the unwritten literature of the 
countryside was still vigorous: in that literature he appears in various 

There is the story of his being entertained in the house of an 
English personage. A ready-witted table-maid as she passes him a dish 
addresses him in Irish; when he replies in Irish, she warns him that 
poison is prepared for him — "There is salt in your cup to slay the 
hundredsl" — She is the giant's or the enchanter's daughter whose wit 
saves the hero. There is, amongst others, the story in which he appears 
as the shrewd adviser whose recommendation to do something fan- 
tastic saves the applicant from an enormous penalty. And he is even 

304 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

able to win a victory over a notorious virago in the manner of the 
folk Aristotle. 

Historically, O'Connell was the last of the orators in the Greek 
and Roman style who made public opinion by the voice. His voice was 
a magnificent organ but it is difficult to believe it reached all of the 
hundred thousand people who, it is reported, stretched all around 
him in the open air at Tara. 

Having gained Catholic Emancipation, he attempted to gain Repeal 
of the Union which meant the restoration of the Irish Parliament by 
the means that availed before, pressure through great popular demon- 
strations. In this he failed. The end of his career came when, rather 
than involve them with the military, he ordered the throngs, that were 
converging on the place he had appointed, back to the counties they 
had marched from. It was a retreat witnessed by the whole of Ireland, 
and it took the spirit out of the country. There was a split in the 
national forces; then came the Famine, and, as if to close an epoch 
with fitting mournfulness, O'Connell's death in Genoa. 

O'Connell at the Hill of Tara 

"O'Connell resembles Luther," observes Lecky; "In each was the 
same instinctive tact in governing great masses of men, the same cal- 
culated audacity, the same art in inspiring and retaining confidence." 

He inspired and ruled the "monster meetings." 

"The greatest of all these meetings, perhaps the grandest display 
of the kind that has ever taken place was held around the Hill of Tara. 
According to very moderate computations, about a quarter of a million 
were assembled there, to attest their sympathy with the movement. 
The spot was well chosen for the purpose — Tara of the Kings, the seat 
of the ancient royalty of Ireland. 

It was on this spot that O'Connell, standing by the stone where 
the kings of Ireland had been crowned, sketched the coming glories 
of his country. Beneath him, like a mighty sea, extended the throng of 
listeners. They were so numerous that thousands were unable to catch 
the faintest echo of the voice they loved so well; yet all remained 
passive, tranquil, and decorous." 

From The Gael, January, 1901, p. 15. New York. 

New Leaders at Home and Abroad 305 

O'Connell's Speech in the Magee Case 

I consented to the adjournment yesterday, gentlemen of the jury, 
from that impulse of nature which compels us to postpone pain; it is, 
indeed, painful to me to address you; it is a cheerless, a hopeless task 
to address you — a task which would require all the animation and 
interest to be derived from the working of a mind fully fraught with 
the resentment and disgust created in mine yesterday, by that farrago 
of helpless absurdity with which Mr. Attorney-General regaled you. 

But I am now not sorry for the delay. Whatever I may have lost in 
vivacity, I trust I shall compensate for in discretion. That which yes- 
terday excited my anger, now appears to me to be an object of pity; 
and that which then roused my indignation, now only moves to 
contempt. I can now address you with feelings softened, and, I trust, 
subdued; and I do, from my soul, declare, that I now cherish no other 
sensations than those which enable me to bestow on the Attorney- 
General and on his discourse, pure and unmixed compassion. 

It was a discourse in which you could not discover either order, or 
method, or eloquence; it contained very little logic, and no poetry at 
all; violent and virulent, it was a confused and disjointed tissue of 
bigotry, amalgamated with congenial vulgarity. He accused my client 
of using Billingsgate, and he accused him of it in language suited 
exclusively for that meridian. He descended even to the calling of 
names: he called this young gentleman a "malefactor," a "Jacobin," 
and a "ruffian," gentlemen of the jury; he called him "abominable," 
and "seditious," and "revolutionary," and "infamous," and a "ruffian" 
again, gentlemen of the jury; he called him a "brothel keeper," a "pan- 
der," "a kind of bawd in breeches," and a "ruffian" a third time, gen- 
tlemen of the jury. 

I cannot repress my astonishment, how Mr. Attorney-General could 
have preserved this dialect in its native purity; he has been now for 

From The Select Speeches of Daniel O'Connell, M.P., edited by his son John 
O'Connell, Esq., pp. 244-304. James Dufly & Sons. London, [no date] 

It was on Tuesday, 27th July, the second day of the proceedings, that he was 
called upon to speak. We quote the ample report of the Evening Post. 

At eleven o'clock, the Chief Justice took his seat in the court, which was crowded 
from an early hour, public expectation being much excited and interested, with 
respect to the proceedings and the issue of the day. 

Mr. O'Connell rose and spoke as follows. — J. O'C. 

306 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

nearly thirty years in the class of polished society; he has, for some 
years, mixed amongst the highest orders in the state; he has had the 
honour to belong for thirty years to the first profession in the world — 
to the only profession, with the single exception, perhaps, of the mili- 
tary, to which a high-minded gentleman could condescend to belong — 
the Irish bar. To that bar, at which he has seen and heard a Burgh and 
a Duquery; at which he must have listened to a Burston, a Ponsonby, 
and a Curran; to a bar which still contains a Plunket, a Ball, and 
despite of politics, I will add, a Bushe. With this galaxy of glory, fling- 
ing their light around him, how can he alone have remained in dark- 
ness? How has it happened, that the twilight murkiness of his soul, 
has not been illumined with a single ray shot from their lustre? Devoid 
of taste and of genius, how can he have had memory enough to pre- 
serve this original vulgarity? He is, indeed, an object of compassion, 
and, from my inmost soul, I bestow on him my forgiveness, and my 
bounteous pity. 

But, to be serious. Let me pledge myself to you that he imposes on 
you, when he threatens to crush the Catholic Board. Illegal violence 
may do it — force may effectuate it; but your hopes and his will be 
defeated, if he attempts it by any course of law. I am, if not a lawyer, 
at least, a barrister. On this subject I ought to know something, and 
I do not hesitate to contradict the Attorney-General on this point, and 
to proclaim to you and to the country that the Catholic Board is 
perfectly a legal assembly — that it not only does not violate the law, 
but that it is entitled to the protection of the law, and in the very 
proudest tone of firmness, I hurl defiance at the Attorney-General! 

I defy him to allege a law or a statue, or even a proclamation that 
is violated by the Catholic Board. No, gentlemen, no; his religious 
prejudices — if the absence of every charity can be called anything 
religious — his religious prejudices really obscure his reason, his 
bigoted intolerance has totally darkened his understanding, and he 
mistakes the plainest facts and misquotes the clearest law, in the 
ardour and vehemence of his rancour. I disdain his moderation — I 
scorn his forbearance — I tell him he knows not the law if he thinks 
as he says; and if he thinks so, I tell him to his beard, that he is not 
honest in not having sooner prosecuted us, and I challenge him to that 

It is strange — it is melancholy, to reflect on the miserable and mis- 
taken pride that must inflate him to talk as he does of the Catholic 
Board. The Catholic Board is composed of men — I include not myself 

New Leaders at Home and Abroad 307 

— of course, I always except myself — every way his superiors, in birth, 
in fortune, in talents, in rank. What! Is he to talk of the Catholic 
Board lightly? At their head is the Earl of Fingal, a nobleman whose 
exalted rank stoops beneath the superior station of his virtues — whom 
even the venal minions of power must respect. We are engaged, pa- 
tiently and perseveringly engaged, in a struggle through the open 
channels of the constitution for our liberties. The son of the ancient 
earl whom I have mentioned cannot in his native land attain any hon- 
ourable distinction of the state, and yet Mr. Attorney-General knows 
that they are open to every son of every bigoted and intemperate 
stranger that may settle amongst us. 

But this system cannot last; he may insult, he may calumniate, he 
may prosecute; but the Catholic cause is on its majestic march; its 
progress is rapid and obvious; it is cheered in its advance, and aided 
by all that is dignified and dispassionate — by everything that is patri- 
otic — by all the honour, all the integrity of the empire; and its success 
is just as certain as the return of to-morrow's sun, and the close of to- 
morrow's eve. 

We will — we must soon be emancipated, in despite of the Attorney- 
General, aided as he is by his august allies, the aldermen of Skinner's- 
alley. In despite of the Attorney-General and the aldermen of Skin- 
ner's-alley, our emancipation is certain, and not distant. 

I have no difficulty in perceiving the motive of the Attorney-General, 
in devoting so much of his medley oration to the Catholic question, 
and to the expression of his bitter hatred to us, and of his determina- 
tion to ruin our hopes. It had, to be sure, no connection with the 
cause, but it had a direct and natural connection with you. He has 
been, all his life, reckoned a man of consummate cunning and dexter- 
ity; and whilst one wonders that he has so much exposed himself upon 
those prosecutions, and accounts for it by the proverbial blindness of 
religious zeal, it is still easy to discover much of his native cunning 
and dexterity. Gentlemen, he thinks he knows his men — he knows 
you; many of you signed the no-Popery petition; he heard one of you 
boast of it; he knows you would not have been summoned on this jury, 
if you had entertained liberal sentiments; he knows all this, and, there- 
fore, it is that he, with the artifice and cunning of an experienced 
nisi primus advocate, endeavours to win your confidence, and command 
your affections by the display of his congenial illiberality and bigotry. 

You are all, Bf course, Protestants; see what a compliment he pays 
to your religion and his own, when he endeavours thus to procure a 
verdict on your oaths; when he endeavours to seduce you to what, if 
you were so seduced, would be perjury, by indulging your prejudices, 

508 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

and flattering you by the coincidence of his sentiments and wishes. 
Will he succeed, gentlemen? Will you allow him to draw you into a 
perjury out of zeal for your religion? And will you violate the pledge 
you have given to your God to do justice, in order to gratify your 
anxiety for the ascendancy of what you believe to be his church? Gen- 
tlemen, reflect on the strange and monstrous inconsistency of this con- 
duct, and do not commit, if you can avoid it, the pious crime of violat- 
ing your solemn oaths, in aid of the pious designs of the Attorney- 
General against Popery. 

Oh, gentlemen! it is not in any lightness of heart I thus address you 
—it is rather in bitterness and sorrow; you did not expect flattery 
from me, and my client was little disposed to offer it to you; besides, 
of what avail would it be to flatter, if you came here pre-determined', 
and it is too plain that you are not selected for this jury from any 
notion of your impartiality? 

But when I talk to you of your oaths and of your religion, I would 
full fain I could impress you with a respect for both the one and the 
other. I, who do not flatter, tell you, that though I do not join with 
you in belief, I have the most unfeigned respect for the form of Chris- 
tian faith which you profess. Would that its substance, not its forms 
and temporal advantages, were deeply impressed on your minds! then 
should I not address you in the cheerless and hopeless despondency 
that crowds on my mind, and drives me to taunt you with the air of 
ridicule I do. Gentlemen, I sincerely respect and venerate your religion, 
but I despise and I now apprehend your prejudices, in the same pro- 
portion as the Attorney-General has cultivated them. In plain truth, 
:very religion is good — every religion is true to him who, in his due 
caution and conscience, believes it. There is but one bad religion, that 
Df a man who professes a faith which he does not believe; but the good 
religion may be, and often is, corrupted by the wretched and wicked 
prejudices which admit a difference of opinion as a cause of hatred. 

The Attorney-General, defective in argument — weak in his cause, 
has artfully roused your prejudices at his side. I have, on the contrary, 
met your prejudices boldly. If your verdict shall be for me, you will 
t>e certain that it has been produced by nothing but unwilling convic- 
tion resulting from sober and satisfied judgment. If your verdict be 
bestowed upon the artifices of the Attorney-General, you may happen 
to be right; but do you not see the danger of its being produced by an 
admixture of passion and prejudice with your reason? How difficult is 
it to separate prejudice from reason, when they run in the same direc- 
tion. If you be men of conscience, then I call on you to listen to me, 

New Leaders at Home and Abroad S09 

that your consciences may be safe, and your reason alone be the 
guardian of your oath, and the sole monitor of your decision. 

I now bring you to the immediate subject of this indictment. Mr. 
Magee is charged with publishing a libel in his paper called the Dublin 
Evening Post. His lordship has decided that there is legal proof of the 
publication, and I would be sorry you thought of acquitting Mr. Magee 
under the pretence of not believing that evidence. I will not, there- 
fore, trouble you on that part of the case; I will tell you, gentlemen, 
presently, what this publication is; but suffer me first to inform you 
what it is not — for this I consider to be very important to the strong, 
aVEd in truth, triumphant defence which my client has to this in- 

Gentlemen, this is not a libel on Charles Lennox, Duke of Rich- 
mond, in his private or individual capacity. It does not interfere with 
the privacy of his domestic life. It is free from any reproach upon his 
domestic habits or conduct; it is perfectly pure from any attempt to 
traduce his personal honour or integrity. Towards the man, there is 
not the least taint of malignity; nay, the thing is still stronger. Of 
Charles Duke of Richmond, personally, and as disconnected with the 
administration of public affairs, it speaks in terms of civility and even 
respect, it contains this passage which I read from the indictment: — 

"Had he remained what he first came over, or what he afterwards 
professed to be, he would have retained his reputation for honest open 
hostility, defending his political principles with firmness, perhaps with 
warmth, but without rancour; the supporter and not the tool of an 
administration; a mistaken politician, perhaps, but an honourable 
man and a respectable soldier." 

The Duke is here in this libel, my lords — in this libel, gentlemen of 
the jury, the Duke of Richmond is called an honourable man and a 
respectable soldier! Could more flattering expressions be invented? 
Has the most mercenary Press that ever yet existed, the mercenary 
Press of this metropolis, contained in return for all the money it has 
received, any praise which ought to be so pleasing — "an honourable 
man and a respectable soldier?" I do, therefore, beg of you, gentlemen, 
as you value your honesty, to carry with you in your distinct recollec- 
tion, this fact, that whatever of evil this publication may contain, it 
does not involve any reproach against the Duke of Richmond, in any 
other than in his public and official character. 

When the art of printing was invented, its value to every sufferer — 
its terror to every oppressor, was soon obvious, and means were speed- 

310 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

ily adopted to prevent its salutary effects. The S tar-Chamber— the 
odious Star-Chamber, was either created, or at least, enlarged and 
brought into activity. Its proceedings were arbitrary— its decisions were 
oppressive, and injustice and tyranny were formed into a system. To 
describe it to you in one sentence, it WAS A PREMATURELY 
PACKED JURY. Perhaps that description does not shock you much. 
Let me report one of its decisions which will, I think, make its horrors 
more sensible to you— it is a ludicrous as well as a melancholy instance. 
A tradesman— a ruffian, I presume, he was styled— in an altercation 
with a nobleman's servant, called the swan, which was worn on the 
servant's arm for a badge, a goose. For this offence— the calling a noble- 
man's badge of a swan, a goose, he was brought before the Star- 
Chamber— he was, of course, convicted; he lost, as I recollect, one of 
his ears on the pillory— was sentenced to two years' imprisonment, and 
a fine of £500; and all this to teach him to distinguish swans from 

I now ask you, to what is it you tradesmen and merchants are in- 
debted for the safety and respect you can enjoy in society? What is it 
which has rescued you from the slavery in which persons who are 
engaged in trade were held by the iron barons of former days? I will 
tell you; it is the light, the reason, and the liberty which have been 
created, and will, in despite of every opposition, he perpetuated by the 
exertion of the Press. 

Gentlemen, the Star-Chamber was particularly vigilant over the 
infant struggles of the Press. A code of laws became necessary to govern 
the new enemy to prejudice and oppression— the Press. The Star- 
Chamber adopted, for this purpose, the civil law, as it is called — the 
law of Rome — not the law at the periods of her liberty and her glory, 
but the law which was promulgated when she fell into slavery and 
disgrace, and recognized this principle, that the will of the prince was 
the rule of the law. The civil law was adopted by the Star-Chamber 
as its guide in proceedings against and in punishing libellers; but, 
unfortunately, only part of it was adopted, and that, of course, was 
the part least favourable to freedom. So much of the civil law as 
assisted to discover the concealed libeller, and to punish him when dis- 
covered, was carefully selected; but the civil law allowed truth to be 
a defense, and that part was carefully rejected. 

Amongst the means taken to raise money in Ireland, for James the 
First, and his son Charles, a proceeding called "a commission to in- 
quire into defective titles," was invented. It was a scheme, gentlemen, 

New Leaders at Home and Abroad 311 

to inquire of every man what right he had to his own property, and to 
have it solemnly and legally determined that he had none. To effec- 
tuate this scheme required great management, discretion, and integ- 
rity. First, there were 4,000 excellent horse raised for the purpose of 
being, as Strafford himself said "good lookers-on." The rest of the 
arrangement I would recommend to modern practice; it would save 
much trouble. I will shortly abstract it from two of Strafford's own 

The one appears to have been written by him to the Lord Treasurer; 
it is dated the 3rd December, 1634. He begins with an apology for not 
having been more expeditious in this work of plunder, for his employ- 
ers were, it seems, impatient at the melancholy waste of time. He then 
says — 

"Howbeit, I will redeem the time as much as I can, with such as may 
give furtherance to the king's title, and will inquire out fit men to 


Take notice of that, gentlemen, I pray you; perhaps you thought 
that the "packing of juries" was a modern invention — a new discovery. 
You see how greatly mistaken you were; the thing has example and 
precedent to support it, and the authority of both are, in our law, 
quite conclusive. 

The next step was to corrupt — oh, no, to interest the wise and 
learned judges. But commentary becomes unnecessary, when I read 
for you this passage from a letter of his to the King, dated the 9th of 
December, 1636: — 

"Your Majesty was graciously pleased, upon my humble advice, to 
bestow four shillings in the pound upon your Lord Chief Justice and 
Lord Chief Baron in this kingdom, fourth of the first yearly rent raised 
upon the commission of defective title, which, upon observation, I find 
to be the best given that ever was. For now they do intend it, with a 
care and diligence, such as if it were their own private, and most 
certain gaining to themselves; every four shillings once paid, shall 
better your revenue for ever after, at least five pounds." 

Thus, gentlemen of the jury, all was ready for the mockery of law 
and justice, called a trial. 

Now, let me take any one of you; let me place him here, where Mr. 
Magee stands; let him have his property at stake; let it be of less value, 
I pray you, than a compensation for two years' imprisonment; it will, 
however, be of sufficient value to interest and rouse all your agony 
and anxiety. If you were so placed here, you would see before you the 
well-paid Attorney-General, perhaps, malignantly delighted to pout 
his rancour upon you; on the bench would sit the corrupt and partisan 

312 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

judge, and before you, on that seat which you now occupy, would be 
placed the packed and predetermined jury. 

I beg, sir, to know what would be your feelings, your honour, your 
rage; would you not compare the Attorney-General to the gambler 
who played with a loaded die, and then you would hear him talk, in 
solemn and monotonous tones, of his conscience? Oh, his conscience, 
gentlemen of the jury! 

But the times are altered. The Press, the Press, gentlemen, has effec- 
tuated a salutary revolution; a commission of defective titles would no 
longer be tolerated; the judges can no longer be bribed with money, 

and juries can no longer be I must not say it. Yes, they can, you 

know— we all know they can be still inquired out, and "packed," as 
the technical phrase is. But you, who are not packed, you, who have 
been fairly selected, will see that the language of the publication before 
us is mildness itself, compared with that which the truth of history 
requires — compared with that which history has already used. 

Let me transport you from the heat, and fury of domestic politics; 
let me place you in a foreign land; you are Protestants, with your 
good leave, you shall, for a moment, be Portuguese, and Portuguese is 
now an honourable name, for right well have the people of Portugal 
fought for their country, against the foreign invader. OhI how easy to 
procure a similar spirit, and more of bravery, amongst the people of 
Ireland! The slight purchase of good words, and a kindly disposition, 
would convert them into an impenetrable guard for the safety of the 
Throne and State. But advice and regret are equally unavailing, and 
they are doomed to calumny and oppression, the reality of persecution, 
and the mockery of justice, until some fatal hour shall arrive, which 
may preach wisdom to the dupes, and menace with punishment the 

In the meantime I must place you in Portugal. Let us suppose for 
an instant that the Protestant religion is that of the people of Portugal 
— the Catholic, that of the government — that the house of Braganza 
has not reigned, but that Portugal is still governed by the viceroy of 
a foreign nation, from whom no kindness, no favour has ever flowed, 
and from whom justice has rarely been obtained, and upon those un- 
frequent occasions, not conceded generously, but extorted by force, or 
wrung from distress by terror and apprehension, in a stinted measure 
and ungracious manner; you, Protestants, shall form, not as with us in 
Ireland, nine-tenths, but some lesser number, you shall be only four- 
fifths of the population; and all the persecution which you have your 

New Leaders at Home and Abroad 313 

selves practiced here upon Papists, whilst you, at the same time, ac- 
cused the Papists of the crime of being persecutors, shall glow around; 
your native land shall be to you the country of strangers; you shall be 
aliens in the soil that gave you birth, and whilst every foreigner may, 
in the land of your forefathers, attain rank, station, emolument, hon- 
ours, you alone shall be excluded; and you shall be excluded for no 
other reason but a conscientious abhorrence to the religion of your 

Is there amongst you any one friend to freedom? Is there amongst 
you one man, who esteems equal and impartial justice, who values the 
people's rights as the foundation of private happiness, and who con- 
siders life as no boon without liberty? Is there amongst you one friend 
to the constitution — one man who hates oppression? If there be, Mr. 
Magee appeals to his kindred mind, and confidently expects an ac- 

There are amongst you men of great religious zeal— of much public 
piety. Are you sincere? Do you believe what you profess? With all this 
zeal — with all this piety, is there any conscience amongst you? Is there 
any terror of violating your oaths? Be ye hypocrites, or does genuine 
religion inspire ye? If you be sincere — if you have conscience — if your 
oaths can control your interests, then Mr. Magee confidently expects 
an acquittal. 

If amongst you there be cherished one ray of pure religion — if 
amongst you there glow a single spark of liberty — if I have alarmed 
religion, or roused the spirit of freedom in one breast amongst you, 
Mr. Magee is safe, and his country is served; but if there be none — if 
you be slaves and hypocrites, he will await your verdict,* and despise it. 

O'Connell's Last Case 

A thrilling account of Daniel O'Connell's last case, that of the 
"Doneraile Conspiracy," is here given: An unpopular Irish magistrate 
had been murdered and the resulting investigation unearthed a con- 
spiracy to kill a number of oppressive local magnates. One hundred 
and fifty persons were indicted, and were to be tried in three batches. 

• And slaves, hypocrites, and bigots they proved themselves, by finding a verdicl 
for the Crown.— J. O'C. 

From The Gael, March, 1901, p. 101. New York. 

314 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

In the defence of the first batch, Daniel O'Connell was not engaged, 
and they were all convicted and sentenced, lads and aged men together, 
to execution within the week. The remaining prisoners and their 
friends, seized with panic, sent an urgent messenger from Cork to 
Derrynane, ninety miles away, and O'Connell hastened to the rescue. 

There was not a moment to spare, as the judge had refused to delay 
the opening of the second trial for his arrival. Traveling in a light 
gig with relays of horses, and scarcely stopping for rest or food, 
O'Connell traversed the frightful Kerry roads at full speed, and at 
length arrived in the courthouse square flogging his exhausted horse, 
which dropped dead between the shafts as he descended, hailed by a 
crowd of thousands with wild shouts: "He's cornel He's cornel" 

Amid a frantic uproar of cheers, he was swept into the courtroom, 
where the opposing lawyer, Mr. Doherty, was addressing the jury. 

The solicitor-general turned white. The cloud of despair lifted 
from the faces of the prisoners in the dock. O'Connell at once bowed 
to the judges, and apologized for not appearing in wig and gown. He 
also craved permission to refresh himself in court. A bowl of bread and 
milk was brought, and as he ate, a young barrister on either side of 
him poured into each ear an account of all that had been done, and 
how the case stood. 

It was a contrast, the big, massive counsellor snatching his hasty 
breakfast, and the graceful, aristocratic Mr. Doherty, talking in the 
most refined way to the court. As he laid down a doctrine of law, 
O'Connell, with marked contempt, cried out, with his mouth full of 
bread and milk: "That's not lawl" 

Again and again he interrupted, but always the decision of the judges 
upheld him and affirmed the error of his antagonist. He was still more 
successful when the witnesses fell into his hands for cross-examination. 
They told or tried to tell the same story on which the former prisoners 
had been convicted; but O'Connell so badgered, tripped, and terrified 
them that their evidence went hopelessly to pieces. 

"Wisha, thin," cried one of them hysterically, visibly trembling, 
"God knows 'tis little I thought I'd meet you here this day, Counsellor 
O'Connelll May the Lord save me from you!" 

The jury could not agree, though locked up and starved for a day 
and a half. Nor were the accused tried again, for the third batch hav- 
ing received meanwhile a full acquittal, the government despaired of 
conviction and they were discharged, while the sentence of the un- 
fortunates already condemned to be hanged was commuted to trans- 

New Leaders at Home and Abroad 315 

Blind Raftery 

Dr. Hyde said he wanted to speak of one of the most remarkable 
men of whom he had ever found traces in the West of Ireland, and 
one of the strangest poets that ever wrote a verse or composed a stanza. 
The man whom he was going to speak of was one of those many 
geniuses of whom Ireland still remained in almost complete ignorance 
— a man whose life and deeds and works could only have been recov- 
ered by the longest and closest and most diligent searching amongst 
the old people of a generation who had now almost passed away. 

The hero of the paper was a man who could neither read nor write. 
He had no access to books of any kind, or to any form of literature, 
except what, his eyes being blind, he was able to pick up through his 
ears as he traveled from peasant's cottage to peasant's cottage with his 
bag over his shoulder, picking up, as he went, his day's meal. Proceed- 
ing, Dr. Hyde went on to describe how he first came upon traces of 

About twenty years ago, when he was a gossoon, he was going out 
one frosty morning with his gun on his shoulder and his dog at his 
heel, when he saw an old man sitting at the door of a cottage singing 
to himself an old Irish song, which, as it afterwards turned out, was 
Raftery's "County of Mayo." The old man, at his request, taught him 
the song, and he went his way. It was fully twelve years after when he 
again came on traces of the poet, who he did not know at the time 
had written the song. 

He was one day in the Royal Irish Academy poking through some 
old manuscripts that were lying there rotting on the shelves, when he 
came upon a little manuscript written in a shaky, scrawling hand, con- 
taining a number of poems ascribed to a man called Raftery, and 
amongst them the very song that he had learned that blessed morning 
long ago. Seven years more elapsed before he came on what the Afri- 
can hunter would call a "hot spoor" of Raftery. He had taken a house 
in Blackrock, and was walking down to the station one morning when 
he met an old blind man begging alms. Having given him a penny and 
passed on about a hundred yards, it struck him suddenly that he should 
have addressed the old man in Irish. He turned back, and having 
addressed the old man again, found he could speak excellent Irish. 

From a repon on a leciure, "A Famous Mayo Poci." given by Dr. Douglas Hyde, 
in The Gael, April, 1903, pp. 1151 16. New York. 

316 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

He conversed with him for an hour, and amongst the things they 
talked about was Raftery. 

The old man gave him minute directions as to a little house in a 
village in Southern Galway into which Raftery had been taken to die. 
Three or four years ago, Dr. Hyde went on to say, he found himself 
in the locality denoted, and going ten or twelve miles out of his way 
actually found the identical old man who had tended Raftery on his 
sick bed, had called in the priest for him, and had seen him die. Every- 
body ,n the village knew something about him, but nobody had 
written down his poems. The old man indicated a place where he had 
heard there was a man who had Raftery's poems written down in a 
book. He went there and found that the man had gone to America 
twenty years before and taken the book with him. He was directed to 
another house where the poems were, but with the same luck— the 
man had taken the book with him to America fifteen years ago 

With the aid of some of the people he was able to get some of Raf- 
tery s poems, and took them down. With the help of Lady Gregory he 
was able to find out a third manuscript belonging to an old stonecutter 
which contained fifteen or sixteen poems in addition to those he had 
already got. Then he came back to the Royal Irish Academy, but could 
not get a trace of the old manuscript he had seen many years ago. The 
index and catalogue afforded him no assistance, because, said Dr. 
Hyde, since the death of O'Curry they had left it in exactly the condi- 
tion that that great Irishman had let it pass from his hands uncom- 
pleted. But after two whole days' search he again found the little roll 
of paper, and discovered that it contained twenty poems, several of 
which he had not got before. 

Other poems had been got from Miss McManus, the editor of the 
Gaelic Journal, the town clerk of Tuam, and Father O'Looney, of 
Loughrea. One was obtained from a pawnbroker in Dublin, and sev- 
eral more came from out of the way directions. Altogether he had 
collected forty-five poems that everybody believed were lost and gone. 
Dr. Hyde, in the concluding portion of his paper, described Raftery 
and the times he lived in, as illustrated by his poems, many of which 
he read out in Gaelic and in English. Born between 1780 and 1790, 
he saw the light first near Kiltimagh, his parents being very poor 
people. Smallpox deprived him of his sight early in life, so that he 
had never any better occupation with which to make a living, than 
that of fiddler. Yet, though absolutely destitute and practically depend- 
ent on alms, no poet of the people had ever exercised so widespread 
influence upon those among whom he lived. It was only in Ireland 
that the poems and life of such a man could have been all but abso- 

New Leaders at Home and Abroad 317 

lutely lost, and it was passing curious that their recovery should have 
been the result of the mere accident of a man walking back, a hundred 
yards to give a penny to a blind beggar. 

Raftery the Poet 

Once, at a wedding where he was playing the fiddle, a newcomer 
asked, "Who is the old fellow over there"? Raftery answered: 

I am Raftery the Poet 

Full of hope and love 

With eyes that have no light, 

With gentleness that has no misery. 

Going west upon my pilgrimage 
By the light of my heart, 
Feeble and tired 
To the end of my road. 

Behold me now, 
And my face to the wall, 
A-playing music 
Unto empty pockets.* 

The County of Mayoj- 

Now, coming on Spring, the days will be growing, 
And after Saint Bride's Day my sail I will throw; 
Since the thought has come to me I fain would be going, 
Till I stand in the middle of the County Mayo! 

The first of my days will be spent in Claremorris, 

And in Balla, beside it, I'll have drinking and sport, 

To Kiltimagh, then, I will go on a visit. 

And there, I can tell you, a month will be short. 

• Translated by Douglas Hyde, 
f Translated by Padraic Colum. 

$ 18 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

I solemnly swear that the heart in me rises, 
As the wind rises up and the mists break below, 
When I think upon Carra, and on Gallen down from it, 
The Bush of the Mile, and the Plains of Mayo! 

Killeadean's my village, and every good's in it; 

The rasp and blackberry to set to one's tooth; 

And if Raftery stood in the midst of his people, 

Old age would go from him, and he'd step to his youth! 

The Last Gleeman 

Michael Moran was born about 1794 off Black Pitts, in the Liberties 
of Dublin, in Faddle Alley. A fortnight after birth he went stone-blind 
from illness, and became thereby a blessing to his parents, who were 
soon able to send him to rhyme and beg at street corners and at the 
bridges over the Liffey. They may well have wished that their quiver 
were full of such as he, for, free from the interruption of sight, his 
mind became a perfect echoing chamber, where every movement of the 
day and every change of public passion whispered itself into rhyme 
or quaint saying. By the time he had grown to manhood he was the 
admitted rector of all the ballad-mongers of the Liberties. Madden, 
the weaver; Kearney, the blind fiddler from Wicklow; Martin, from 
Meath; M'Bride, from heaven knows where; and that M'Grane, who in 
after days, when the true Moran was no more, strutted in borrowed 
plumes, or rather in borrowed rags, and gave out that there had never 
been any Moran but himself, and many another, did homage before 
him, and held him chief of all their tribe. 

Nor despite his blindness did he find any difficulty in getting a wife, 
but rather was able to pick and choose, for he was just that mixture' 
of ragamuffin and of genius which is dear to the heart of woman, 
who, perhaps because she is wholly conventional herself, loves the 
unexpected, the crooked, the bewildering. Nor did he lack, despite 
his rags, many excellent things, for it is remembered that he ever loved 
caper sauce, going so far indeed in his honest indignation upon one 
occasion as to fling a leg of mutton at his wife. He was not, however, 

From The Celtic Twilight, by William Butler Yeats, pp. 79-90. A. H. Bullen Ltd 
London. 1902. 

New Leaders at Home and Abroad S19 

much to look at, with his coarse frieze coat with its cape and scalloped 
edge, his old corduroy trousers and great brogues, and his stout stick 
made fast to his wrist by a thong of leather: and he would have been 
a woeful shock' to the gleeman MacConglinne, could that friend of 
kings have beheld him in prophetic vision from the pillar stone at 
Cork. And yet though the short cloak and the leather wallet were no 
more, he was a true gleeman, being alike poet, jester, and newsman of 
the people. In the morning when he had finished his breakfast, his 
wife or some neighbour would read the newspaper to him, and read on 
and on until he interrupted with, "That'll do — I have me medita- 
tions"; and from these meditations would come the day's store of jest 
and rhyme. He had the whole Middle Ages under his frieze coat. 

He had not, however, MacConglinne's hatred of the Church and 
clergy, for when the fruit of his meditations did not ripen well, or 
when the crowd called for something more solid, he would recite or 
sing a metrical tale or ballad of saint or martyr or of Biblical adven- 
ture. He would stand at a street corner, and when a crowd had 
gathered would begin in some such fashion as follows (I copy the rec- 
ord of one who knew him), "Gather round me, boys, gather round me. 
Boys, am I standin' in puddle? Am I standin' in wet?" Thereon several 
boys would cry, "Ah, no! Yez not! Yer in a nice dry place. Go on with 
St. Mary; go on with Moses" — each calling for his favourite tale. Then 
Moran, with a suspicious wriggle of his body and a clutch at his rags 
would burst out with, "All me buzzim friends are turned backbiters"; 
and after a final "If yez don't drop your coddin' and diversion I'll lave 
some of yez a case," by way of warning to the boys, begin his recita- 
tion, or perhaps still delay, to ask, "Is there a crowd round me now? 
Any blackguard heretic around me?" 

The best-known of his religious tales was St. Mary of Egypt, a long 
poem of exceeding solemnity, condensed from the much longer work 
of a certain Bishop Coyle. It told how a fast woman of Egypt, Mary 
by name, followed pilgrims to Jerusalem for no good purpose, and 
then, turning penitent on finding herself withheld from entering the 
Temple by supernatural interference, fled to the desert and spent the 
remainder of her life in solitary penance. When at last she was at the 
point of death, God sent Bishop Zozimus to hear her confession, give 
her the last sacrament, and with the help of a lion, whom He sent 
also, dig her grave. The poem has the intolerable cadence of the eight- 
eenth century, but was so popular and so often called for, that Moran 
was soon nicknamed Zozimus, and by that name is he remembered. 
He had also a poem of his own called Moses, which went a little 
nearer poetry without going very near. But he could ill brook solemn- 

320 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

ity, and before long parodied his own verses in the following raga- 
muffin fashion: 

In Egypt's land, contagious to the Nile, 

King Pharaoh's daughter went to bathe in style. 

She tuk her dip, then walked unto the land, 

To dry her royal pelt she ran along the strand. 

A bulrush tripped her, whereupon she saw 

A smiling babby in a wad o' straw. 

She tuk it up, and said with accents mild, 

"Tare-and-agers, girls, which av yez owns the child?" 

His humorous rhymes were, however, more often quips and cranks 
at the expense of his contemporaries. It was his delight, for instance, 
to remind a certain shoemaker, noted alike for display of wealth and 
for personal uncleanness, of his inconsiderable origin in a song of 
which but the first stanza has come down to us: 

At the dirty end of Dirty Lane, 
Liv'd a dirty cobbler, Dick Maclane; 
His wife was in the old king's reign 

A stout brave orange-woman. 
On Essex Bridge she strained her throat, 
And six-a-penny was her note. 
And Dickey wore a bran-new coat, 

He got among the yeoman. 
He was a bigot, like his clan, 
And in the streets he wildly sang, 
O Roly, toly, toly raid, with his old jade. 

He had troubles of divers kinds, and numerous interlopers to face 
and put down. Once an officious peeler arrested him as a vagabond, 
but he was triumphantly routed amid the laughter of the court, when 
Moran reminded his Worship of the precedent set by Homer, who was 
also, he declared, a poet, a blind man, and a beggarman. He had to 
face a more serious difficulty as his fame grew. Various imitators 
started up on all sides. A certain actor, for instance, made as many 
guineas as Moran did shillings by mimicking his sayings and his songs 
and his get-up upon the stage. One night this actor was at supper with 
some friends, when dispute arose as to whether his mimicry was over- 
done or not. It was agreed to settle it by an appeal to the mob. A forty- 
shilling supper at a famous coffee-house was to be the wager. The 

New Leaders at Home and Abroad 321 

actor took up his station at Essex Bridge, a great haunt of Moran's, 
and soon gathered a small crowd. He had scarce got through "In Egypt 
land, contagious to the Niie," when Moran himself came up, followed 
by another crowd. The crowds met in great excitement and laughter. 
"Good Christians," cried the pretender, "is it possible that any man 
would mock the poor dark man like that?" 

"Who's that? It's some imposhterer," replied Moran. 

"Begone, you wretchl It's you'ze the imposhterer. Don't you fear the 
light of heaven being struck from your eyes for mocking the poor dark 

"Saints and angels, is there no protection against this? You're a 
most inhuman bla'guard to try to deprive me of my honest bread this 
way," replied poor Moran. 

"And you, you wretch, won't you let me go on with the beautiful 
poem? Christian people, in your charity won't you beat this man 
away? He's taking advantage of my darkness." 

The pretender, seeing that he was having the best of it, thanked the 
people for their sympathy and protection, and went on with the poem, 
Moran listening for a time in bewildered silence. After a while Moran 
protested again with: "Is it possible that none of yez can know me? 
Don't yez see it's myself; and that's some one else?" 

"Before I can proceed any further in this lovely story," interrupted 
the pretender, "I call on yez to contribute your charitable donations 
to help me to go on." 

"Have you no sowl to be saved, you mocker of heaven?" cried Moran, 
put completely beside himself by this last injury. "Would you rob the 
poor as well as desave the world? O, was ever such wickedness known?" 

"I leave it to yourselves, my friends," said the pretender, "to give to 
the real dark man, that you all know so well, and save me from that 
schemer," and with that he collected some pennies and half-pence. 
While he was doing so, Moran started his Mary of Egypt, but the in- 
dignant crowd seizing his stick were about to belabor him, when they 
fell back bewildered anew by his close resemblance to himself. The 
pretender now called to them to "just give him a grip of that villain, 
and he'd soon let him know who the imposhterer wasl" They led him 
over to Moran, but instead of closing with him he thrust a few shillings 
into his hand, and turning to the crowd explained to them he was 
indeed but an actor, and that he had just gained a wager, and so de- 
parted amid much enthusiasm to eat the supper he had won. 

In April, 1846, word was sent to the priest that Michael Moran was 
dying. He found him at 15 (now Ui/ 2 ) Patrick Street, on a straw bed, 
in a room full of ragged ballad-singers come to cheer his last moments. 

322 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

After his death the ballad-singers, with many fiddles and the like, 
came again and gave him a fine wake, each adding to the merriment 
whatever he knew in the way of rann, tale, old saw. or quaint rhyme. 
He had had his day, had said his prayers and made his confession, and 
why should they not give him a hearty send-off? The funeral took 
place the next day. A good party of his admirers and friends got into 
the hearse with the coffin, for the day was wet and nasty. They had 
not gone far when one of them burst out with "It's cruel cowld, isn't 
it?" "Garni ," replied another, "we'll all be as stiff as the corpse when 
we get to the berrin-ground." "Bad cess to him," said a third; "I wish 
he'd held out another month until the weather got dacent." A man 
named Carroll thereupon produced a half-pint of whiskey, and they 
all drank to the soul of the departed. Unhappily, however, the hearse 
was over-weighted, and they had not reached the cemetery before the 
spring broke, and the bottle with it. 

Moran must have felt strange and out of place in that other king- 
dom he was entering, perhaps while his friends were drinking in his 
honour. Let us hope that some kindly middle region was found for 
him, where he can call dishevelled angels about him with some new 
and more rhythmical form of his old 

Gather round me, boys, will yez 

Gather round me? 
And hear what I have to say 

Before old Sal ley brings me 
My bread and jug of tay; 

and fling outrageous quips and cranks at cherubim and seraphim. Per- 
haps he may have found and gathered, ragamuffin though he be, the 
Lily of High Truth, the Rose of Far-sought Beauty, for whose lack so 
many of the writers of Ireland, whether famous or forgotten, have 
been futile as the blown froth upon the shore. 

John Barry, Father of the American Navy 

It was a bright, sparkling day in April, and Captain John Barry, 
casting a seawise eye on the well-filled sails of his sixteen-gun brig. 

By Parry Miller, in The Irish Digest, May. 1953. pp. 24-26. Dublin. 

New Leaders at Home and Abroad 323 

thanked his stars once again for a trim craft, a spirited crew, and a 
mission for both. 

The brig was the Lexington, and here she was, cruising off the Vir- 
ginia Capes on the look-out for English ships. For this was the year 
1776, with the American Colonies in revolt and at open war with Eng- 
land. And Barry held a Congress commission. It made him one of the 
earliest naval officers to be appointed on the American side. 

He was now thirty-one. He mused on all that had happened to him 
since that day when, a boy scarce in his teens, he had slipped away 
from his home in Tacumshane, County Wexford, and first gone away 
to sea. 

Why he had done that he had never quite been able to explain. The 
wide, wild sea had called to his young ears, and he had been unable to 
resist. Not that he had ever regretted it. What he would have regretted 
would have been to be tied for life to the desk of a clerk in a malt- 
house, as his father had been. 

So, as a boy, he had somehow got aboard a boat and sailed for the 
Golden West. He had never gone back to Wexford. At fifteen he was 
calling Philadelphia his home town and sailing in American ships. 

By the time he was twenty-one he was master of one of them. And in 
the years that had followed he had built up a sound little shipping 
business and made a fair amount of money. 

Then, in the autumn of 1775, had come this revolt against the voice 
of London. Barry had promptly thrown in his lot with the Americans. 
As a first-class shipmaster his services were snapped up. He was given 
the job of fitting out a fleet. 

It was, of course, the first fleet of ships of war the Americans had 
ever had. It consisted of eight vessels, and over-all command of them 
was given to Captain Esek Hopkins, a merchant captain who had once 
been master of a privateer. 

Esek had chosen for his flagship the twenty-four-gun Alfred, in whose 
fortunes John Barry had a special interest. It had been his own mer- 
chantman, the Black Prince, and his special pride and joy, but he had 
gladly turned this vessel over for conversion into a well-armed man- 

In his mind's eye Barry could see her now — with the yellow silk 
flag his friend John Paul Jones had hoisted at her masthead, the flag 
that bore the device of a pine tree and a rattlesnake, and the motto, 
"Don't Tread on Me." 

Barry's musings were broken by a shout from the look-out. A sail 
away to starboard had been spotted. Barry cracked out his orders, and 

324 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

very soon his glass had picked up a small craft carrying English colours. 
He cleared his guns for action and crowded on sail to overhaul her. 

She proved to be the Edward, mounting eight guns and carrying a 
crew of thirty-five, against the Lexington's seventy. Although out- 
weighted, the Englishmen fought back valiantly, and there was a spir- 
ited action that lasted about an hour. Then, badly damaged, the Ed- 
vard was forced to strike her colours. And Barry sailed proudly back 
to port with the first English ship-of-war to be captured by the Amer- 
ican Navy. 

This exploit won for Barry command of a new twenty-eight-gun 
frigate, the Effingham, being built at Philadelphia. Before she was 
ready for sea, however, English troops from Brandywine attacked and 
Barry was forced to run his new craft up the Delaware. There, on 
direct orders from George Washington, he scuttled and sank her. ' 

Barry was now ordered to go to Boston and take command of the 
thirty-two-gun frigate Raleigh. Within a couple of days of putting to 
sea he was sighted by the fifty-gun English frigate Experiment and the 
twenty-eight-gun Unicorn. There followed a battle of wits and seaman- 
ship that was to last for the next forty-eight hours, Barry's job being 
to escape getting manoeuvred into a position where he would be a 
sitting duck for the guns of the enemy. 

In the end, heavily outgunned and with every chance of escape cut 
off, he ran his craft fast aground on an island known as the Wooden 
Ball, some twenty miles from the mouth of the Penobscot River. The 
Englishmen, moving cautiously because of the shoaling water, went 
in as close as possible and opened heavy fire, to which the Raleigh 
replied with her stern guns. 

While these last shots were being exchanged, Barry was speeding up 
preparations for landing his men and destroying his ship by setting 
her afire. He managed to get some of his crew ashore, but as the boats 
were returning for the remainder the Raleigh's colours fluttered down. 

Barry himself had managed to get away and, with those of his men 
who escaped, headed for the mainland. 

Things were going badly with other ships of the young American 
Navy. Indeed, about this time it was crushed almost out of existence. 
With no ships to command or sail in, Barry decided to throw in his lot 
with the army. He served in this capacity, with distinction, for the 
next couple of years. 

Early in 1781 he went back to the sea, being given the thirty-two- 
gun frigate Alliance, which had just got back after a remarkable cruise 
round the British coast as one of John Paul Jones's squadron. His job 

New Leaders at Home and Abroad 325 

was to carry safely to France Colonel Laurens, the new representative 
of the States at the Court at Versailles. 

On the way back he met fresh adventures. To start with, he and the 
captain of a French ship captured a couple of English privateers. Then, 
while his craft lay becalmed off the coast of Newfoundland one May 
morning, she was spotted and smartly attacked by two English brigs — 
die sixteen-gun Atlanta and the fourteen-gun Trepassy. 

For an hour the Englishmen kept up their fire with impunity. Barry 
himself had a shoulder badly shattered by grape-shot and had to go to 
his cabin for attention at the hands of the ship's surgeon. Scarce had 
he got there than a lucky hit from one of the brigs carried away the 
American flag from the masthead of the Alliance. 

Barry heard an English hail from across the water, to know if the 
disappearance of the flag meant the frigate had struck. But at that 
moment, with everything apparently lost, Barry felt his ship suddenly 
lurch — lightly enough, but unmistakably. Seaman as he was, he knew 
well enough what it meant. That lurch meant a breeze. And sure 
enough, within a little while the Alliance had gained steerage way. 

Barry knew just what to do now to turn the tables on the English- 
men. Bringing his ship smartly about, he ran her straight between the 
two brigs with all guns thundering. Then, his men sweating and strain- 
ing and reloading, he about ship and did it again and again. The play 
of those powerful broadsides turned the trick. Both the brigs were 
compelled to strike their flags. Barry went on ranging the seas and 
striking shrewd blows for his adopted country. 

It was Barry who fought the last sea action of the Revolutionary 
War. That was against the twenty-eight-gun Sybille which, on March 
10th, 1783, tried with two other ships to intercept the Alliance, carry- 
ing a bullion shipment, in the Gulf of Florida. 

It was because of his skill as a fighting seaman, and the reputation 
he had made, that in 1794 he was sent against the Algerian pirates. 
And in 1798, when there were hostilities with France, he was given 
command of the United States naval forces in West Indian waters. 

In the end he became Commodore Barry and the head of the navy 
he had done so much to bring into being and inspire. And because of 
his success in the training of young officers who were later to make 
their mark they called him the Father of that Navy. He died at Phila- 
delphia, in September, 1803, aged fifty-eight. 

326 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

The 69th in Virginia 

It was fully ten o'clock, on the morning of the 17th of July, when 
the 69th came in sight of Fairfax Court House, the road along which 
the regiment passed being obstructed, every half mile almost, with 
enormous heaps of fallen trees, which the Confederates had levelled 
and massed together, and which had to be cut through by our axe- 
men, before the slightest progress could be made. In this rough and 
dangerous pioneering, the Engineers of the 69th, under the command 
of their high-spirited young Captain, did quick and clear work, splen- 
didly maintaining their character with the regiment for usefulness, 
promptitude and boldness. 

Arriving in sight of Fairfax Court House, and within easy cannon- 
shot of it, the 69th, leaving the Ohio and other regiments drawn up 
in line of battle along the road, striking off at right-angles to the left 
of the main line of march, passed on so as to flank the village and cut 
off the retreat of the Confederates. 

Proceeding in the execution of this movement, we came in sight of 
a portion of the enemy, apparently from one thousand to one thou- 
sand five hundred strong, drawn up in line of battle outside the 
village in a field, directly fronting our line of march. The order to 
halt was promptly given, the right wing of the 69th was thrown into 
the fields to the left, and uniting there with the 2nd New York — as 
vigorous and spirited a body of men as any one would wish to see — 
moved rapidly down upon the enemy. 

As they neared him, however, he retreated into the village, and then 
out of it towards Centreville, leaving it to be peacefully entered, a 
short time after, by the forces from Arlington Heights, and the encamp- 
ments between that and Alexandria and beyond it. 

At 12 o'clock the Green Flag was planted upon the deserted ram- 
parts of the Confederates at Germantown; the Stars and Stripes were 
lifted opposite to it, at a distance of fifteen paces, and between the two 
beautiful and inspiring symbols — the one of their old home and the 
other of their new country — the 69th passed in triumph, hats and caps 
waving on the bayonet points, and an Irish cheer, such as never before 

Extracts from The Last Days of the 69th in Virginia, by Thomas Francis Meagher, 
in Memoirs of Gen. Thomas Francis Meagher, by Michael Cavanagh, pp. 391-397. 
The Messenger Press. Worcester, Mass. 1892. 

New Leaders at Home and Abroad 327 

shook the woods of old Virginia, swelling and rolling far and wide 
into the gleaming air. 

Defiling through the deserted earth-works at Germantown, our 
Brigade bore off to the left, taking position in line of battle in the 
open fields spreading northward from the village. Skirmishers were 
thrown forward, and the village also being found deserted, the march 
was renewed, the position of the regiments being altered — the First 
Wisconsin taking the right, and the 69th bringing up the rear of the 

Over the streaming bayonets, through the swaying colors and the 
clouds of dust rolling at the head of the 69th beside our Colonel, I saw 
the handful of little wooden houses, known as Germantown, rise up 
and dilate before us. One house, however, particularly struck me, 
even at that distance, and notwithstanding the dust, confusion and 
tumult through which I noticed it, — a two-storied house, well propor- 
tioned, — with a white, cheerful face; roses and woodbine, as I took 
them to be, coiling and clustering about the trellised porch; young 
ornamental trees in front of it; a clear and handsome feature in the 
clouded picture against which we were moving— it was the first pleas- 
ant object, of the quieter and friendlier order of things, we had fallen 
in with since we pushed on that morning from Vienna. 

"That house is on fire," Father O'Reilly, the Chaplain, hurriedly 
observed, as he whipped his horse up beside the Colonel. 

The words had scarcely fallen from his lips when a round mass of 
black smoke rolled out of the windows of the house and buried it in 
darkness. In another moment, the red flames were leaping through the 
smoke, and the crackling of timbers, pierced and rifted with the fire, 
was heard distinctly above the tramp and tumult of the march. The 
only ornament of the village, in hot haste and fury, was plunging into 
ashes. In half an hour it would be, at best, a heap of smouldering 

Whose was the scurvy and malignant hand that fired the deserted 
homestead? It is for the regiments of the Brigade, in advance of the 
69th, to answer. With them rests the responsibility of this savage riot- 
ousness and mischief. The house was doomed irrevocably when the 
69th came up. The Irish regiment swept by the blazing ruin, cursing 
the ruffians who had played the barbarous prank, and maddened with 
the thought of the disgrace it would bring on the Federal Flag. 

A shout, hearty and prolonged, soon told us that Centreville, also, 
had been evacuated. The huts, cresting the rising ground on the left, 
were stripped to the very leaves and branches of which they had been 
built. The redoubt between the housr and the road was emptied too, 

328 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

nothing falling into the possession of the Federal troops but a few 
ammunition boxes. It was a clean sweep the Confederates made, as 
they fell back, abandoning position after position, until they fiercely 
stood their ground in that fatal labyrinth, bristling, four miles ahead, 
between us and Manassas. It was there they wanted us; and their 
abandoned positions at Vienna, Fairfax, at Germantown, at Centre- 
ville — wherever they had been grouped between Bull Run and Falls 
Church, up to the evening of our advance, — were but so many arti- 
fices, elaborately arranged along our line of march, to entice us head- 
long, breathless and breadless, almost, to destruction. 

At noon on the 18th of July, the Stars and Stripes were flying over 
Centreville. The regiments under Colonel Keyes, accompanied by 
Brigadier-General Tyler, moved down the southern slope of the hill 
already mentioned, and disappeared. Sherman's Brigade broke into 
the fields to the right of where we halted on the road — arms were 
stacked — haversacks and canteens were brought into play — and the 
sore-footed volunteers, their blankets spread above them on rails and 
muskets, so as to shade them somewhat, enjoyed a lunch of biscuit and 
hot water, and four hours' repose. 

Little they seemed to heed the cannon which, at long intervals, — . 
intervals of from ten to twenty minutes — when it first began to boom, 
off there in the hazy woods below, — told them that the enemy was 
found at last. One might have thought that every man of the 69th had 
been a hardened and callous veteran, so coolly, so indifferently, so 
lazily did they take those dread intimations that death had com- 
menced his havoc amid the lightnings, and with all the pomp of war. 

The fact is — what with the constant alarms at Fort Corcoran, forced 
marches and precipitate expeditions two or three times a week, being 
under arms upon the ramparts every second night or so, lying in am- 
buscade at the Alexandria and Loudon railway from midnight until 
dawn, and undergoing all the hardships, violences, and most of the 
shocks of war, the men of the 69th had become familiarized by an- 
ticipation and analogy with the scene which, at that moment, was 
being played out with such terrible effect amid the beautiful green 
trees of Virginia, and on one of the oldest high-roads to her capital. 
Hence the strange coolness with which they heard those bellowings of 
the conflict, awaiting the summons that would fling them into its 
fierce currents, and whirl their banner into the blackest and wildest 
eddies of the storm. 

At four o'clock in the afternoon that summons came. Sherman's 
Brigade was ordered up to relieve the regiments that had been under 
fire for five hours and more. The 69th led the way, and, as they hurried 

New Leaders at Home and Abroad 329 

up the hill, the elasticity and enthusiasm of their race seemed to per- 
vade them thoroughly. Of those thousand men, sweeping on to battle, 
through choking clouds of dust, and under that smiting sun, there was 
not one but carried himself right gallantly — not one who did not feel 
that the honor of his race and of its military character was staked that 
hour upon the conduct of the 69th; and who, feeling this, and lifting 
his eye in rapture to the Green Flag as it danced above the rushing 
column, did not swear to meet the thrusts of battle with a fearless 

An hour's rushing— for the marching of the 69th to Bull Run that 
evening cannot otherwise be described— brought the regiment to the 
brow of the hill descending into the little meadow, where the Federal 
troops, regiment after regiment, had faced and stood a tempestuous 
fire from the batteries of rifled cannon— masked as well as naked bat- 
teries—the fire of rifle-pits— a downright torrent and whirlwind of 
balls and shot, all of the deadliest cunning and ripest pattern. 

And here they encountered several of the 12th Regiment of New 
York Volunteers hurrying from the bloody arena in the woods below, 
some of them dragging dead or bleeding comrades along with them, 
others with bandaged heads or legs or arms, staggering through the 
dust and the vengeful storm from the rifled cannon which still pur- 
sued them. Here, too, they met the 13th of Rochester on its retreat, 
this fine young regiment having stood its ground until broken and 

Seeing a body of men making through the woods from where the 
murderous hail was pouring in upon them thick and sharp and fast, 
and taking them to be the Southerners in pursuit of the 12th New- 
York, the boys of the 69th instinctively brought their bayonets to the 
charge, and were on the point of plunging upon the 13th, when Cap- 
tain Haggerty dashed along the line and struck the bayonets upwards 
with his sword. It was the bold act of a cool, strong, decisive brain, and 
in an instant it stayed the 69th with an iron hand, as it were, and held 
it in a masterly suspense. 

The next moment we were ordered to lie down in double file, in 
the wood overlooking the field of battle, with our faces and muskets 
Xo the road, and in that position, keeping perfectly silent and collected, 
to await further orders. For more than three quarters of an hour did 

the regiment keep its position there — without a word from the ranks 

without a breath almost— whilst shot and shell, and every sort of 
hellish missile, swept and tore, whizzed and jarred, smashed and 
plunged through the trees all about, and close to us overhead, in hurt- 
ling and deafening showers on either flank, in front and rear. 

330 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

While we lay under that torrent and hurricane of round shot, 
spherical ball, shell and canister, whilst we patiently submitted to this 
butcherly rain, Captain Haggerty stood upon our extreme right, con- 
templating with undisguised satisfaction, the perfect coolness and sub- 
ordination of the men, the Colonel taking it just as coolly in the centre 
as though he had been dictating some unimportant order in his 
marquee at Fort Corcoran, with a pitcher of ice-water close at hand. 

Between six and seven o'clock, General McDowell came upon the 
ground with a brilliant escort, including the young Governor Sprague 
of Rhode Island, and he, comprehending at a glance the situation of 
affairs, the sheer deadliness of the conflict, and the utter fatuity of 
attacking the hidden enemy in his lair, ordered the 69th to return to 
the hill overlooking the little village of Centreville, and there await 
further orders, which would be forthwith issued. 

Were it not for the visit of Father Scully, the young and devoted 
Chaplain of Colonel Cass's Irish Regiment, from Boston, who, having 
heard of Thursday's fighting, dashed across from Washington, over 
five-and-thirty miles, to see and learn all about us, Saturday, despite 
of the glaring sunshine, would have been a gloomy day indeed. Hi? 
hearty words and response lit up afresh the life and fire of the 69th; 
and he came in good time, and most kindly staid long enough to relieve 
our own beloved Chaplain. Father O'Reilly at the confessional. There 
were few of the 69th who failed to confess and ask forgiveness on that 
day. Every one, officers as well as privates, prepared for death. Sincerely 
and devoutly they made their peace with God. This is the secret of 
their courage, and the high, bright spirit with which they bore all the 
hardships, the privations, the terrors, and the chastisement of the 

It was, in truth, an affecting sight — that of strong, stalwart, rugged 
men — all upon their knees, all with heads uncovered, all with hands 
clasped in prayer and eyes cast down, approaching, one by one, the 
good, dear priest, who, seated at the foot of an old bare tree, against 
which some of our boys had spread for him an awning of green 
branches, heard the confessions of the poor fellows and bid them 
be at ease and fearless. Long as I live, I shall never forget that scene. 
It was not less impressive than that of Father O'Reilly's passing along 
our line, as we knelt within range of the enemy's batteries on one 
knee, with bayonets fixed, expecting every instant to be swept upon, 
and the final benediction was imparted. 

Father O'Reilly has told me since that the earnestness and devotion 
with which poor Haggerty received that benediction singularly struck 
him, and that the attitude and expression of this truly honest and 


New Leaders at Home and Abroad 331 

heroic soldier at that solemn moment could never leave his memory. 
Of subsequent incidents and events, the world, by this time, has 
heard enough. Concerning the advance from Centreville, the battle, 
the retreat, the alarm and confusion of the Federal troops, columns 
and volumes have been filled. I can add nothing to the history of 
the day but my testimony, that wherever the Federal troops had a fair 
chance — wherever, indeed, they had the slightest opening even — there 
and then they whipped the Confederate forces, utterly overwhelmed 
and confounded them. In every instance where the Federal infantry 
came in contact with that of the seceding States, did this occur. In no 
one instance, not for a second, did it happen that the Federal forces 
were driven back by, or received the slightest check from the Southern 
Infantry. We yielded to their batteries, and despite of every effort 
and determination were compelled to do so. It was impossible for men 
to override that tempest. Three times did the 69th launch itself against 
it. Three times, having plunged headforemost into its deadliest 
showers, was it hurled back. We beat their men — their batteries beat 
us. That is the story of the day. 

Ambrose O'Higgins of Chile 

There is often a touch of pleasant mystery about some of the Irish 
Who made a great name abroad. Ambrose O'Higgins, the Mayo man — 
or is it the Meath man, for the books are not clear on the point, must 
have been one of the most forthright emigrants who ever sailed away. 
Who could have prophesied that the lad who ran messages for the 
high Lady in Meath and could there look forward to the prospect of 
becoming the high Lady's butler, one lucky day for him would leave 
his prospects behind him and land in South America on the way to 
become first, a market-stall keeper there, and, later, one of the great 
statesmen of that continent? It was he of course who as a Spanish 
oEcial, after he had abandoned the market-stall, placated the Arau- 
canian Indians of Chile who had been defying the Spaniards for 
twenty-four years. "Patiru Paddi" was the name that these defiant 
Chileans gave the Irishman — "Father Paddy," the tribute of a nick- 
name that carried as high a compliment as a statesman ever won. The 
story of Ambrose O'Higgins' (the "O" adopted deliberately as an 

From "Irish Empire," by D. L. Kelleher, in The Capuchin Annual, 1944, pp. 55- 
56. Dublin. 

332 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

Irish identification when he achieved high Spanish rank) break later 
with the Spaniards and his re-creation of Chilean independence is too 
long to repeat. The lad who might have been a butler in the Meath 
parlor of the high Lady is remembered for an age instead as a famous 
soldier and statesman of South America. The small but memorable 
fact that he arranged to have a regular allowance paid to his poor 
relations in Ireland and committed the administration of the fund 
to the local parish priest stands as much to his credit perhaps as all 
his diplomatic and war triumphs. He was not one of these curious 
people too common in the world who find it rather an annoyance 
that poor relations exist as a reminder of their own humble origin. 
His son, Bernardo O'Higgins, the son of a Chilean mother, was 
given command of the patriotic forces in Chile. Later he took a sub- 
ordinate post with General San Martin whom he co-operated with for 
the organization of the army and their transportation across the Andes. 
Later, he took over the administration of Chile, and his firm and dis- 
interested government is praised by historians. "Generous" is a word 
often used about Bernardo O'Higgins. His post of Director-General 
gave him dictatorial powers, but he resigned it in face of a popular 
manifestation. He retired to Peru where he died in 1842. 

The Wandering Hawk: Chief of the Fenians 

At midnight, on November 24, 1865, there was hardly a soul to 
be seen in the streets of Dublin City. A high wind was blowing, 
driving a bitter sleet before it. Policemen on duty took shelter in 
doorways, blowing upon their fingers and cursing the elements. 

But colder even than the policemen were half-a-dozen men who 
were waiting, drenched to the skin, outside Richmond Jail. They 
were watching the high prison wall and waiting for a signal. When 
they spoke it was in whispers, and they dared not stamp their feet 
on the grass for warmth lest the sound be overheard. 

In a cell within the prison a man was pacing up and down. He, 
too, was expecting a signal, for he knew that on this night, unless 
plans miscarried, an attempt would be made to rescue him. His name 
was James Stephens. 

From Adventures of an Irish Bookman, a selection from the writings of M. J. 
MacManus, ediied by Francis MacManus, pp. 24-28. The Talbot Press, Lid. Dublin. 

New Leaders at Home and Abroad 333 

Stephens was the biggest prize that the Secret Service of Dublin 
Castle had landed for many a long day. He was the chief of the 
dreaded Fenian Society, a dominating, hypnotic man, the very men- 
tion of whose name would bring a hush in any Irish gathering. 

A fortnight before, he had been arrested at Fairfield House in 
Sandymount, and a few days later was brought, under a heavy guard, 
before a magistrate in the Castle. In the dock he looked as cool and 
unperturbed as if he had been sitting in a barber's chair having a 
haircut. When a clerk of the court read a passage from one of his 
letters, in which he had declared that this should be "the year for 
action," Stephens startled everybody by interjecting loudly: "And so 
it may be!" 

At the end of the proceedings the magistrate asked him if he had 
any observations to make. "I have," said Stephens. "If I have employed 
no lawyer in this case it is because by making a defence of any kind 
I should be recognizing British law in Ireland. Now I deliberately and 
conscientiously repudiate the existence of that law. I defy any punish- 
ment it can inflict on me. I have spoken." 

After that short, defiant and contemptuous speech he was taken, 
still more heavily guarded, to Richmond Jail, where high walls, iron 
doors and grated windows were to keep him safe until he came up for 
trial on November 27. The officials in Dublin Castle felt that they need 
lose no sleep over him now. 

But they had underestimated Fenian daring and ingenuity. One of 
the warders in Richmond, Dan Byrne, was a sworn member of the 
brotherhood. The superintendent of the hospital, John J. Breslin, 
was a sympathiser. With these two, the Fenian leaders still at liberty — 
John Devoy and Colonel Kelly — swiftly arranged a plan of rescue. 

"Richmond," said a contemporary writer, "was one of the strongest 
jails in Ireland. At the head of one of the several stone stairs which 
connect the ground-floor cell system with the upper tier ran a short 
cross corridor of six cells. The door between the corridor and the 
stairway was of heavy hammered iron, nearly an inch thick. The cell 
doors were likewise of wrought iron, fastened with ponderous swing- 
ing bars and padlocks." 

Five of these cells held Fenian prisoners— Stephens, O'Leary, Rossa, 
Kickham, and Luby. In the sixth, between Stephens and Kickham, the 
jail governor had placed an ordinary prisoner — a young lad named 
McLeod — with instructions to listen after locking-up time and sound 
a gong if he thought anything was amiss. 

The night of November 24 came. The head warder went on his final 
round of inspection. The other warders were paraded and their keys 

334 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

put away in the governor's safe. Lights went out and silence descended 
on the prison. Hours passed by, and the city clocks had just chimed 
one when Stephens heard a gentle tap on his door, which in another 
moment was quietly opened. 

Byrne and Breslin entered, each holding a revolver. No more than 
a nod was exchanged and Stephens followed them along the corridor, 
down the stone stairs and out into the yard. A ladder lying in a corner 
was quickly lifted and placed against the wall. Then came an un- 
pleasant shock: it was too short! 

Breslin thought quickly. Time was passing, and at any moment the 
alarm might be raised. McLeod might sound his gong. Beckoning 
Byrne, and telling Stephens to hide in an empty sentry-box, he hur- 
ried back and the two carried out a large table from the day-room. On 
this they placed the ladder. 

Outside in the field the other rescuers, weary and famished after 
their long vigil, were waiting anxiously. The signal was to be a handful 
of gravel thrown over the wall and the "quack, quack" of a duck. 
About midnight — the time fixed for the signal— a real duck had 
quacked, as if in mockery. The watchers smiled ruefully. 

Since then an hour or more had passed, and now they were growing 
despondent. Eventually, however, there came the quacking noise and 
the sound of pebbles falling. In another moment the head and 
shoulders of Stephens could be seen, a shadowy form in the dark- 
ness, surmounting the wall. A rope, knotted at intervals, was thrown 
across and seized by Breslin and Byrne at the other side. 

Carefully and laboriously — for he was no light-weight — Stephens 
made the descent, to be greeted with fervent, but silent handshakes 
when he reached the ground. Everything had gone according to plan. 
The rope was hauled down and taken away, and Breslin and Byrne 
returned to the prison, the former removing the mud from his slippers 
before he retired to bed, the latter doing his rounds and putting off 
giving the alarm until he was satisfied that Stephens and his escort 
had had ample time to make a complete get-away. 

In the morning there was wild panic in official circles in Dublin. 
The "Wandering Hawk" had taken wing again. Cavalry scoured the 
country. Squads of police and detectives were everywhere. Hundreds 
of suspected houses were raided; garrets and coal-holes were searched; 
floor-boards were torn up and wainscoting stripped. Steamers were 
stopped and the passengers scrutinised. Gunboats put to sea and 
searched fishing-smacks and coasting vessels. On all the boardings 
throughout the country large placards appeared with the heading in 
great black type: One Thousand Pounds Reward. At the inquisition 

New Leaders at Home and Abroad 335 

held in the jail McLeod was asked why he did not sound the gong. 
"I was afraid I'd get a bullet if I did," was his simple and adequate 

Whilst all the commotion was going on, Stephens lay in hiding in a 
shabby little house in Ballybough, the home of a Mrs. Butler. She was 
a poor woman, but with her the Fenian leader was perfectly safe. Had 
the reward offered been ten times as great, she would not have be- 
trayed him. 

About seven months later a handsome open carriage, drawn by four 
spirited horses, drove through the streets of Dublin. It carried a 
postilion and footmen in livery. Two gentlemen, immaculately dressed 
and wearing silk hats, reclined at ease on the cushioned seats. It was a 
sunny afternoon in the month of June. 

As the equipage passed Amiens Street Station a policeman on duty 
stood to attention and saluted. The gentlemen taking the air must be 
magistrates at leastl Once the North Strand was passed, the driver 
whipped up his horses and they moved at a spanking pace towards 
Malahide and the sea. Some miles from Balbriggan the carriage halted. 
One of its occupants got out, bade farewell to the other, and walked 
to the shore, where a boat was waiting. He stepped into it and was 
rowed quickly out to a sailing boat anchored a few hundred yards 
out. The sails were set, and in a few moments the boat was speeding 
down the Channel bound for France. 

This time the "Wandering Hawk" had spread his wings in earnest. 
The coachman, postilion and footman watched until the vessel was 
out of sight. Then they returned to the carriage and drove back 
quietly to Dublin. They were all picked men of the Irish Republican 
Brotherhood and armed to the teeth. 

Charles Stewart Parnell 

On Tuesday night, December 9, he started for Ireland, accompanied 
by many of his colleagues. A reporter from the Freeman's Journal 
asked him before his departure. "What message, Mr. Parnell, shall I 
send from you to the Irish people?" "Tell them," he replied, "that I 
will fight to the end." 

From The Life of Charles Stewart Parnell, by R. Barry O'Brien, Vol. II, pp. 290- 
297. Smith. Elder & Co. London. 1898. 

336 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

On Wednesday morning, December 10, he arrived in Dublin and 
went straight to the house of Dr. Kenny. There he received a hearty 
welcome, not only from the multitude collected outside but from the 
many friends gathered within. An eyewitness has given me an account 
of the scene in Dr. Kenny's breakfast-room on that eventful morning. 
"The room was full of men, all talking together, interrupting each 
other, making suggestions and counter-suggestions, proposing plans 
and counter-plans, and everyone too full of his own views to listen 
to the views of anyone else. Parnell sat silently near the fire, looking 
thoughtfully into it and apparently heeding nothing that was going 
on. Mrs. Kenny entered the room, made her way through the crowd 
to Parnell, and said: "Mr. Parnell, do you not want something to 
eat?" 5 

"That is just what I do want," he said, with a smile. 

"Why," said Mrs. Kenny, going among the agitators, "don't you 
see that the man is worn out and wants something to eat, while you all 
keep talking and debating, and making a noise." 

Soon there was complete silence, and Parnell sat to the table, say- 
ing, "I am as hungry as a hawk." 

Breakfast over, the Chief did not allow the grass to grow under his 
feet. "United Ireland," which had been founded by him, had under 
the direction of Mr. Matthias Bodkin, the acting editor in Mr. Wil- 
liam O'Brien's absence, gone over to the enemy. Parnell's first order 
was, "Seize 'United Ireland,' expel Bodkin, and put Mr. Leamy in 
charge of the paper." This order was carried out on the morning of 
December 18, under the superintendence of Parnell himself, with 
characteristic vigour and despatch. Going straight to the office of the 
paper he removed Mr. Bodkin and his staff, placing Mr. Leamy in the 
editorial chair. One of Parnell's Fenian supporters has given me a 
brief and pithy account of what happened. "I went up to Matty 
Bodkin. 'Matty,' says I, 'will you walk out, or would you like to be 
thrown out?' and Matty walked out." 

That night Parnell addressed a great meeting at the Rotunda. 
Miss Katharine Tynan (Mrs. Hinkson) was present, and has given a 
graphic account of what she saw: "It was nearly 8.30 when we heard 
the bands coming; then the windows were lit up by the lurid glare of 
thousands of torches in the street outside. There was a distant roaring 
like the sea. The great gathering within waited silently with expecta- 
tion. Then the cheering began, and we craned our necks and looked 
on eagerly, and there was the tall, slender, distinguished figure of the 
Irish leader making its way across the platform. I don't think any 
words could do justice to his reception. The house rose at him; every- 

New Leaders at Home and Abroad 337 

where around there was a sea of passionate faces, loving, admiring, 
almost worshipping that silent, pale man. The cheering broke out 
again and again; there was no quelling it. Mr. Parnell bowed from 
side to side, sweeping the assemblage with his eagle glance. The people 
were fairly mad with excitement. I don't think anyone outside Ireland 
can understand what a charm Mr. Parnell has for the Irish heart; that 
wonderful personality of his, his proud bearing, his handsome, strong 
face, the distinction of look which marks him more than anyone I 
have ever seen. All these are irresistible to the artistic Irish. 

"I said to Dr. Kenny, who was standing by me, 'He is the only 
quiet man here.' 'Outwardly," said the keen medical man, emphati- 
cally. Looking again, one saw the dilated nostrils, the flashing eye, the 
passionate face: the leader was simply drinking in thirstily this im- 
mense love, which must have been more heartening than one can say 
after that bitter time in the English capital. Mr. Parnell looked frail 
enough in body — perhaps the black frock-coat, buttoned so tightly 
across his chest, gave him that look of attenuation; but he also looked 
full of indomitable spirit and fire. 

"For a time silence was not obtainable. Then Father Walter Hurley 
climbed on the table and stood with his arms extended. It was curious 
how the attitude silenced a crowd which could hear no words. 

"When Mr. Parnell came to speak, the passion within him found 
vent. It was a wonderful speech; not one word of it for oratorical 
effect, but every word charged with a pregnant message to the people 
who were listening to him, and the millions who should read him. 
It was a long speech, lasting nearly an hour; but listened to with in- 
tense interest, punctuated by fierce cries against men whom this crisis 
has made odious, now and then marked in a pause by a deep-drawn 
moan of delight. It was a great speech — simple, direct, suave — with no 
device and no artificiality. Mr. Parnell said long ago, in a furious 
moment in the House of Commons, that he cared nothing for the 
opinion of the English people. One remembered it now, noting his 
passionate assurances to his own people, who loved him too well to 
ask him questions." 

One sentence from Parnell's speech will suffice. It was the simple 
truth, and went to the heart of every man and every woman in the 

"I don't pretend that I had not moments of trial and of temptation, 
but I do claim that never in thought, word, or deed have I been false 
to the trust that Irishmen have confided in me." 

There were many in the Rotunda who did not look upon Parnell 
as a blameless man, or even a blameless politician; but all felt that in 

338 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

every emergency, through good report and ill report, he had been 
faithful to Ireland and the foe of English rule in the island. This 
was the bond of union between him and the men who carried the 
"thousands of torches" that lighted up his path that night— the men 
on whom he now relied to face his enemies. 

While the meeting in the Rotunda was going on the Anti-Parnellites 
made a raid on "United Ireland," and recaptured it. 

Next morning Parnell rose betimes — he had to start for Cork by an 
early train. But "United Ireland" was not to be left in the hands of 
the seceders. Dr. Kenny's carriage was quickly ordered to the door. "We 
must re-capture 'United Ireland' on our way to the train," said the 
Chief, as he finished his breakfast. 

A description of the dramatic scene which followed has been given 
to me by a gentleman wholly unconnected with politics, who hap- 
pened, by the merest chance, to be in the neighbourhood when the 
final battle over "United Ireland" was fought. 

"I was walking down the north side of O'Connell Street, when there 
was a rush from all quarters in the direction of Lower Abbey Street. 
I followed the crowd, which stopped opposite the office of 'United 
Ireland.' There I witnessed a scene of wild excitement. Sticks and re- 
volvers were being circulated freely by men who passed in and out 
of the dense mass, but as yet no blows had been exchanged. 

"The enemy was, in fact, safe behind barred doors and windows, 
out of harm's way for the present, in the office of 'United Ireland.' 
Suddenly round the street corner dashed a pony carriage containing 
two gentlemen, as well as I can remember unattended; one, I was told, 
was Dr. Kenny, the other I knew to be Charles Stewart Parnell. I had 
seen him before in Ennis addressing a multitude of Clare men under 
the shadow of O'Connell's monument. I had been struck on that day 
by his power of electrifying a great multitude. I was to be even more 
moved and startled by him on this day. The carriage dashed on, the 
people making way for it, and it was as well, for no attempt was made 
to slacken speed. Both men seemed heedless of the crowd, thinking 
sternly of the seizure of the offices which they had come to make. A 
tremendous sensation was produced by the appearance of Parnell. 
They had been, doubtless, on the point of storming the citadel of the 
mutineers, and here was their captain come to fight in their front. 
Cheer after cheer filled the air, mingled with cries of hatred, defiance, 
and exultation. The carriage was checked so abruptly that the horse 
fell flat upon the road. Parnell sprang out, rushed up the steps, and 
knocked peremptorily at the office door. There was a pause, during 
which every eye regarded him and him alone. Suddenly he turned, 

New Leaders at Home and Abroad 339 

his face pale with passion, his dark eyes flaming; he realised that obedi- 
ence was not to be expected from those within, realised also the pain 
of being taunted and jeered at by his own countrymen, for there were 
indications of this from those within. He turned and spoke to some 
of his followers, then stood to wait. We knew by instinct that he was 
not going to turn away from that door, at which he had demanded 
admittance; he intended to storm the stronghold of the mutineers. 

"I forgot everything save that there was going to be a historic fight 
and that I wanted to have a good view of it. I dashed into a house 
opposite, and, without waiting for formal leave, ran upstairs. The 
windows of the first floor were crowded. I ran higher up, and soon 
gained a splendid point of vantage. I was in full sight of the be- 
leaguered offices, and had a bird's eye view of the crowd in the street— 
a crowd of grim, determined, passionate men, many of them armed 
and all ready and eager for a fray. Parnell's envoys were back by this 
time, bringing from some place near a crowbar and pickaxe. There was 
a brief discussion. Then Parnell suddenly realised that the fort might 
be carried from the area door. In a moment he was on the point of 
vaulting the railings. The hands of considerate friends restrained him 
by force. I heard his voice ring out clearly, impatiently, imperatively 
Go yourselves, if you will not let me.' At the word several of those 
around him dropped into the area. Now Parnell snatched the crowbar 
and, swinging his arms with might and main, thundered at the door' 
The door yielded, and, followed by those nearest to him, he disap- 
peared into the hall. Instantly uprose a terrible noise. The other 
storming party, it seems, had entered from the area, and, rushing up- 
stairs, had crashed into Parnell's bodyguard. What happened within 
the house I do not know, for spectators outside could only hold their 
breath and listen and guess. Feet clattered on the boarded stairs, voices 
hoarse with rage shrieked and shouted. A veritable pandemonium was 
let loose. At last there was a lull within, broken by the cheers of the 
waiting crowd without. One of the windows on the second storey was 
removed, and Parnell suddenly appeared in the aperture. He had con- 
quered. The enthusiasm which greeted him cannot be described. His 
face was ghastly pale, save only that on either cheek a hectic crimson 
spot was glowing. His hat was off now, his hair dishevelled, the dust 
of the conflict begrimed his well-brushed coat. The people were spell- 
bound, almost terrified, as they gazed on him. For myself, I felt a thrill 
of dread, as if I looked at a tiger in the frenzy of its rage. Then he 
spoke, and the tone of his voice was even more terrible than his look. 
He was brief, rapid, decisive, and the closing words of his speech still 

340 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

ring in my ear: 'I rely on Dublin. Dublin is true. What Dublin says 
to-day Ireland will say to-morrow.' 

"He had simply recaptured 'United Ireland' on his way going south 
to Cork. The work done, he immediately entered the carriage and 
drove to King's Bridge terminus. After what I had witnessed I could 
not go tamely about my business. Hailing a car, I dashed down the 
quays. Many other cars went in the same direction, and the faithful 
crowd followed afoot. I was among the first to reach the terminus. I 
pushed towards the platform, but was stopped by the ticket collector. 
I was determined, however, not to be baulked, and I was engaged in a 
hot altercation with him, when I felt myself being crushed and wedged 
forward. With or without leave, I was being swept onto the platform, 
and, turning to see who was pushing or being pushed against me in 
the gangway, I found to my amazement that the foremost in the throng 
was Parnell himself. My look of angry remonstrance was doubtless soon 
turned, as I met his inscrutable gaze, into one of curious awe. The 
crowd at the station was now immense, and the spirit of 'I don't care 
what I do' which led me up to the room in Lower Abbey Street seemed 
to inspire everybody. People rushed about madly on the platform, seek- 
ing for every point of vantage to look at the Chief. Ladies got out 
of the first-class carriages of the train, which was waiting to start, and 
mingled in the throng. Parnell had entered a saloon carriage; the 
crowd cheered again and again, calling his name. He stood at the 
carriage window, looking pale, weary, wistful, and bowed graciously 
to the enthusiastic crowd. Many of those present endorsed the words 
of a young lady who exclaimed, addressing an elderly aristocrat 
wrapped in furs: 'Oh, father, hasn't he a lovely face!' The face dis- 
appeared from the window. The cheers again rose up, and then died 
away as the train passed from our sight." 

Gladstone on Parnell: An Interview 

I began the conversation by saying: "May I ask when you first dis- 
covered that there was anything remarkable in Parnell?" 

Mr. Gladstone. "1 must begin by saying that I did not discover 
anything remarkable in Mr. Parnell until much later than I ought to 
have discovered it. But you know that I had retired from the leader- 

Ibid., pp. 356-359. 

New Leaders at Home and Abroad 341 

ship of the Liberal party about the time that Parnell entered Parlia- 
ment, and when I came back to public life my attention was absorbed 
by the Eastern Question, by Bulgaria, and I did not think much about 
Ireland. I do not think that Mr. Parnell or Irish matters much engaged 
my attention until we came back to Government in 1880. You see we 
thought that the Irish question was settled. There was the Church Act 
and the Land Act, and there was a time of peace and prosperity, and 
I frankly confess that we did not give as much attention to Ireland as 
we ought to have done. Then, you know, there was distress and trouble, 
and the Irish question again came to the front." 

"Could you say what it was that first attracted your attention to 

Mr. Gladstone (with much energy). "Parnell was the most remark- 
able man I ever met. I do not say the ablest man; I say the most re- 
markable and the most interesting. He was an intellectual phe- 
nomenon. He was unlike anyone I had ever met. He did things and 
he said things unlike other men. His ascendency over his party was 
extraordinary. There has never been anything like it in my experience 
in the House of Commons. He succeeded in surrounding himself with 
very clever men, with men exactly suited for his purpose. They have 
changed since, I don't know why. Everything seems to have changed. 
But in his time he had a most efficient party, an extraordinary party. 
I do not say extraordinary as an Opposition, but extraordinary as a 
Government. The absolute obedience, the strict discipline, the military 
discipline, in which he held them was unlike anything I have ever 
seen. They were always there, they were always ready, they were al- 
ways united, they never shirked the combat, and Parnell was supreme 
all the time." Then, with renewed energy: "Oh, Parnell was a most 
remarkable man and most interesting. I don't think he treated me well 
at the end, but my interest in him has never abated, and I feel an in- 
tense interest in his memory now." Then, striking the arm of his chair 
with his hand: "Poor fellowl poor fellow! it was a terrible tragedy. 
I do believe firmly that if these divorce proceedings had not taken 
place there would be a Parliament in Ireland to-day." 

I said: "He suffered terribly during the last year of his life. The iron 
had entered his soul. I was with him constantly, and saw the agony 
of his mind, though he tried to keep it a secret from us all." 

Mr. Gladstone. "Poor fellowl Ahl if he were alive now I would do 
anything for him." 

"May I ask, when did you first speak to Parnell?" 

Mr. Gladstone. "Well, under very peculiar circumstances, and they 
illustrate what I mean when I speak of him as being unlike anyone 

312 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

I ever met. I was in the House of Commons, and it was in 1881, when, 
you know, we were at war. Parnell had made violent speeches in Ire- 
land. He had stirred the people up to lawlessness. Forster had those 
speeches printed. He put them into my hands. I read them carefully. 
They made a deep impression on me, and I came down to the house 
and attacked Parnell. I think I made rather a strong speech (with a 
smile) — drew up rather a strong indictment against him, for some of 
the extracts were very bad. Well, he sat still all the time, was quite 
immovable. He never interrupted me; he never even made a gesture 
of dissent. I remember there was one declaration of his which was 
outrageous in its lawlessness. I read it slowly and deliberately, and 
watched him the while. He never winced, while the House was much 
moved. He listened attentively, courteously, but showed no feeling, no 
excitement, no concern. I sat down. He did not rise to reply. He 
looked as if he were the one individual in the House who was not a bit 
affected by what I said. The debate went on. After a time I walked out 
of the House. He rose from his seat, followed me, and coming up with 
much dignity and in a very friendly way, said: 'Mr. Gladstone, I 
should like to see those extracts from my speeches which you read. I 
should like particularly to see that last declaration. Would you allow 
me to see your copy? 1 I said, 'Certainly,' and I returned to the table, 
got the copy, and brought it back to him. He glanced through it 
quickly. Fastening at once on the most violent declaration, he said, 
very quietly: 'That's wrong; I never used those words. The report is 
quite wrong. I am much obliged to you for letting me see it.' And, sir 
(with vehemence), he was right. The report was wrong. The Irish 
Government had blundered. But Parnell went away quite uncon- 
cerned. He did not ask me to look into the matter. He was apparently 
wholly indifferent. Of course I did look into the matter, and made it 
right. But Parnell, to all appearances, did not care. That was my first 
interview with him, and it made a deep impression on me. The im- 
mobility of the man, the laconic way of dealing with the subject, his 
utter indifference to the opinion of the House— the whole thing was 
so extraordinary and so unlike what one was accustomed to in such 

"You disapproved of Mr. Parnell's action after the passing of the 
Land Act in 1881?" 

Mr. Gladstone. "Yes; I think he acted very badly then, and unlike 
what one would expect from him. He proposed to get up what he called 
test cases, to give the Act a fair trial, as he said. But the test cases were 
got up really to prevent the Act getting any trial at all. Well, I then 
took an extreme course. I put him into gaol. It was then I said (with 

New Leaders at Home and Abroad 343 

a smile) that the resources of civilisation were not exhausted. I felt 
that if I did not stop him he would have stopped the Act." 

Two Whose Names Have Gone Round the World 

Captain Boycott* 

In 1873 Captain Boycott became agent for the Lough Mask estates 
of Lord Erne and at the same time he leased about 1,000 acres in that 
area, which he farmed himself. 

Captain Boycott was regarded as a domineering and exacting per- 
son, but he was respected for his courage and resourcefulness. He was 
a small man, but "possessed of an iron will," declared a writer who was 
bitterly hostile to him. He was widely known as a fearless hunter and 
steeplechase rider. He appeared frequently at races, sometimes as a 
participant, and all his life he was closely identified with the sport. 

Between him and his tenants, however, there existed little sympathy 
or understanding. "He treated his cattle better than he did us," as- 
serted one of his tenants in November, 1880, to a correspondent of the 
Freeman's Journal. But he experienced no difficulty in the collection 
of rents until August, 1879, when the tenants were not satisfied with 
a voluntary reduction of 10 per cent which Lord Erne made and de- 
manded a 25 per cent abatement. Lord Erne refused to grant this, and 
one morning just before the rents came due Captain Boycott found a 
notice posted on the demesne gate, with a picture of a coffin on it, 
threatening him with death unless he secured for the tenants a reduc- 
tion of 25 per cent. . . . 

Late in September, 1880, at the instigation of the local branch of the 
Land League, the tenants on Lord Erne's estate submitted to Captain 
Boycott a schedule of what they conceived to be fair rentals for their 
holdings, and demanded that their rents be adjusted according to it. 
Lord Erne authorized his agent to allow a 10 per cent reduction from 
the rents of the previous November, but the tenants refused to pay 
anything whatsoever until their demands were met. Upon further con- 
sultation with Lord Erne, Captain Boycott offered a 20 per cent abate- 
ment, but when the tenants refused to pay he instituted ejection 
proceedings against them. This instant and summary action precipi- 

•From The Irish Land League Crisis, by Norman Dunbar Palmer, pp. 198-210. 
Copyright, 1940, by the Yale University Press. New Haven. 

344 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

tated a crisis. On September 22, as the process-server, escorted by 
several police, went forth to perform his unpleasant duty, he was met 
by a crowd of excited peasants, who shouted horrible threats and pelted 
him with mud and sticks and stones, so that after serving three processes 
he was forced to retreat in all haste to Lough Mask House, where 
Captain Boycott lived. 

These events of late September were the immediate occasion for the 
adoption of a policy which added the word "boycott" to the English 
language; for Captain Boycott was soon subjected to the treatment 
recommended by Parnell only a few days before. The campaign was 
inspired and organized by the Ballinrobe branch of the Land League, 
of which Father John O'Malley, the priest of the parish in which 
Lord Erne's estate was located, was the guiding spirit. 

On the morning of the 24th a crowd of peasants came to Lough 
Mask House and ordered all of Captain Boycott's employees to leave. 
The command was immediately obeyed, and the agent and his wife 
were left with but one old attendant whom they had brought with 
them from Dublin. They had no servants to do the household work, no 
stablemen to take care of the horses, cattle, and other animals, no 
laborers to harvest the crops. Their isolation was complete, for no 
one dared go near them or have any dealings with them. The local 
shopkeepers refused to fill their orders. The boy who carried the mail, 
upon being threatened, first resorted to clandestine visits and then 
ceased to deliver their letters. For a time Boycott's young nephew acted 
as a postboy, but on October 2 he was stopped and threatened and 
thereafter the police were forced to assume this function. The bearer 
of a telegram was stopped and frightened away; the laundress would 
work no more for them; the blacksmith who shod their horses found a 
notice on his door warning him that if he did so again he would be 
shot. "My farm," wrote Captain Boycott in a letter to The Times, "is 
public property; the people wander over it with impunity. My crops 
are trampled upon, carried away in quantities, and destroyed whole- 
sale. The locks on my gates are smashed, the gates thrown open, the 
walls thrown down, and the stock driven out on the road." 

A garrison of ten men was stationed in Lough Mask House, and the 
harassed captain was given an armed escort to protect him from 
violence. Whenever he left the house, two burly members of the Royal 
Irish Constabulary, armed with loaded carbines, guarded his every 
move. "My life is not worth an hour's purchase," he told the Bess- 
borough Commissioners, who were taking evidence on the workings 
of the Irish Land Act of 1870 in various parts of Ireland at this time. 
In all probability, however, the peasants had no intention of doing 

New Leaders at Home and Abroad 345 

him bodily harm. Their avowed object was to isolate him, in accord- 
ance with Parnell's advice at Ennis, "as if he was a leper of old," and 
eventually to drive him out of the country. Occasionally they appeared 
before his house to hurl derisive taunts, or to trample on his crops; 
now and then they sent him a threatening letter; but otherwise they 
left him "severely alone," to carry on a "Robinson Crusoe existence" 
as best he could. 

The most immediate problem confronting Captain Boycott was how 
to save his crops. Although he labored unceasingly himself, and was 
ably assisted by his wife, he could do little without outside help. . . . 
But help soon came from an unexpected source. The captain's letters 
to The Times describing his plight aroused great sympathy for his 
lonely struggle, and equally great indignation at the ostracism to which 
he had been subjected; and they attracted widespread attention to the 
events that were occurring in this remote part of Connaught. In the 
north of Ireland steps were taken to send an expedition to the relief 
of the besieged agent. Two Ulster gentlemen, Mr. Manning and Mr. 
Goddard, offered to lead such an expedition if sufficient men and 
money could be obtained; and the Belfast News Letter started a fund 
for this purpose. Within a few days eight hundred pounds had been 
raised, and hundreds of men had volunteered their services. One 
Ulsterman alone offered to send thirty thousand men, if need be, to 
the Lough Mask district! 

The preparations became so formidable that the Government, fear- 
ing the results of an invasion of Land League territory by a large body 
of the hated Orangemen, became alarmed. A special train was arranged 
for November 10 to carry seventy armed laborers from Monaghan and 
vicinity, underthe leadership of Colonel Lloyd, agent for Lord Ross- 
more, into Mayo, but the chief secretary for Ireland forbade the men 
to leave Monaghan. Captain Boycott informed the authorities that 
fifty men could gather his crops before the December frosts came; to 
send more than that number, he warned, would be unnecessary and 
dangerous. Accordingly, approval was given for sending an expedition 
of fifty volunteer Ulster laborers. . . . "The Boycott expedition," wrote 
The Times' Dublin correspondent on November 9, "is the most ex- 
citing topic of the day. It has filled the minds of the public with 
mingled curiosity, irritation and fear." Special correspondents and 
observers flocked to Ballinrobe, and settled down to report the progress 
of the expedition. 

The news of the intended invasion of the Orangemen caused 
tremendous excitement in Ballinrobe and Claremorris, and indeed 
throughout Mavo. The excitement was enhanced by the dispatch o£ 

346 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

hundreds of additional troops and police to the Lough Mask district. 
On November 9 three special trains with two hundred men of the 19th 
Hussars and two companies of the Army Service Corps, with ammuni- 
tion wagons, ambulances, and other war equipment, left Dublin for 
Ballinrobe; and at Athlone the last train was joined by another with 
four hundred of the 84th Regiment. This formidable force disem- 
barked at Claremorris and marched the rest of the way to Ballinrobe. 
That night, as a correspondent of the Freeman's Journal wrote, "This 
bewildered little town" was "the headquaters of the nearest approach 
to an army ever beheld in Mayo since Humbert and his Frenchmen 
were at Castlebar in '98." The people showed no signs of hostility 
toward the soldiers, but all the correspondents on the spot agreed that 
there was grave danger of bloodshed if the Boycott relief expedition 
was dispatched. . . . 

Meanwhile, on November 8, 9, and 10, the most extraordinary 
rumors were heard: that two thousand Orangemen had actually 
arrived in Claremorris; that five hundred armed men from the North 
had reached Westport by steamer and were en route for Ballinrobe; 
that Captain Boycott had cut his throat. And all the while extensive 
preparations were being made for the protection of the Ulster laborers. 

On November 1 1 the relief expedition arrived in Mayo. At Mul- 
lingar, in County Westmeath, fifty laborers, six gentlemen and ten at- 
tendants, and large numbers of troops entered special carriages on the 
regular morning train from Dublin to the West. A patrol engine was 
sent ahead of the train, and police were stationed at key points all long 
the line. At every station between Athlone and Claremorris crowds 
gathered on the platform and cheered and groaned at the Orange- 
men. At Ballyhaunis the train was delayed by the hostile demonstra- 
tions. When at length, shortly before 4:00 p.m., the members of the 
expedition reached Claremorris, rain was falling heavily; and long 
before they arrived in Ballinrobe, fifteen miles away, they were thor- 
oughly drenched. 

Hundreds of soldiers and police were stationed at Claremorris; and, 
according to a correspondent of the Freeman's Journal, along the 
fifteen-mile route to Ballinrobe were "fully seven thousand men, 
military and police, more than a sixth of the whole available force of 
British military power in Ireland." The Land League did much to pre- 
vent disorder or conflict by issuing a manifesto to the people of Mayo, 
calling on them to give the Orangemen the same treatment that had 
been accorded to Captain Boycott; in particular they were urged not 
to let any conveyances to the invaders nor to give them food or shelter. 
The plans of the league worked perfectly. The carmen refused to 


New Leaders at Home and Abroad 347 

convey the Northerners; Claremorris, save for the squads of troops and 
police and a few persons, mostly women and children, on the street- 
corners, was like a deserted village; and along the roadside hardly any 
peasants were to be seen. The long cavalcade of mounted police, hus- 
sars, dragoons, and infantry, with the Ulstermen completely surrounded 
by troops, must have presented a ludicrous spectacle as it moved slowly 
along the muddy road through the pouring rain, with a handful of 
jeering peasants in the rear. . . . 

At 9:30 p.m. the bedraggled Ulstermen and their formidable escort 
at last entered Ballinrobe. The streets leading to the cavalry barracks 
were lined on each side with soldiers with fixed bayonets, but aside 
from groans and shouts of indignation from the people, there was no 
disturbance. By ten o'clock the laborers were safely quartered in the 
barracks for the night. 

The following morning the cavalcade reformed and proceeded to 
Lough Mask House, some four miles away. In front marched about 
one hundred police, with loaded rifles; then came the hussars, with 
drawn swords; then two hundred men of the 84th Regiment, with 
fixed bayonets, marching in two fdes, with the Ulster laborers between 
them. In the rear were two companies of the 84th Regiment, guarding 
the provisions and fuel wagons. Behind the troops were the resident 
magistrates, constabulary officers, press correspondents, a few mem- 
bers of the Land League, and a small crowd of barefooted peasants, 
mostly women and children, who hurled taunts at the Orangemen and 
shouted imprecations on Captain Boycott. As on the preceding day 
most of the peasants were conspicuous by their absence. The proces- 
sion reached Lough Mask House at 12:30 p.m., and the rest of the day 
was spent in making camp and in other preparations for an extended 

For the next two weeks the Ulster laborers dug the potatoes, man- 
golds, and turnips, threshed the corn and harvested the wheat, while 
the constables patrolled the region by day and night and the soldiers 
indulged in sports to keep themselves from boredom. The laborers 
toiled bravely under trying conditions, for the miserable weather made 
their task a doubly unpleasant one. . . . 

On the morning of November 26 the Orangemen finished their 
labors, and the relief expedition prepared to depart. The scene about 
Lough Mask House was one of enthusiasm and rejoicing. Soldiers, 
police, and laborers joined in songs and cheers. From the steps of his 
home Captain Boycott read an address to them, in which he expressed 
"deep and heart-felt gratitude for the generous and timely aid," and 
spoke of the "unflinching determination, . . . untiring exertions, good 

348 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

conduct, and self-sacrifice" of the laborers, troops, and constabulary. 
Then he shook hands with everybody, amid loud and hearty cheers. 

The retreat of the "potato warriors" was almost as farcical as was 
their arrival. On the day of their departure the peasants were in- 
structed by the local Land League officials to keep out of sight; and all 
along the course of the march from Lough Mask House to Ballinrobe, 
where the expedition remained overnight, not a peasant was seen, save 
one old woman whom Father O'Malley accused, in mock wrath, of 
intimidating her Majesty's troops. As the Orangemen, escorted by 
troops and constabulary, left Lord Erne's estate, ahead of them strode 
Father O'Malley, with an umbrella over his shoulder, to see that their 
way was clear. He continued to march at the head of the procession 
"until it disappeared beyond the boundary of his parish into the 
records of history and of ridicule." 

In the opinion of The Times the promoters of the Boycott expedi- 
tion could "look back with satisfaction at the complete success which 
has attended their sympathetic enterprise." The captain's crops were 
saved, although at a cost of at least ten times their actual value. But 
the Land League and the Mayo peasantry won their battle, for with 
the expedition Captain Boycott, with his wife and nephew, left Mayo. 
He had demonstrated his courage by remaining on the estate in the 
face of concentrated persecution and repeated threats; now he yielded 
to his better judgment and gave up the hopeless struggle. He first 
went to Dublin, but when the proprietor of the hotel where he was 
staying, upon receiving a threatening notice, refused to allow him to 
continue on as a guest, he crossed the Channel and settled in England. 

The story of Captain Boycott has a happy ending. His exile from 
Ireland lasted for only ten months. Save for a visit of some weeks with 
friends in Virginia, he remained in England until late September, 
1881; then he returned to Lough Mask House. For a time he was con- 
stantly guarded by constabulary, but he experienced no further trouble. 
The land agitation had spent its strength, the league itself had been 
suppressed as an illegal organization, and most of the peasants had 
returned tp more orderly ways. "Curiously enough," wrote a con- 
temporary observer, "he is again at peace with his neighbors, and he is 
even popular, perhaps because he showed that he was a brave man." 

"The case of Captain Boycott," wrote Kenward Philip in 1881, "is 
one of the most remarkable episodes that has ever taken place in Irish 
revolutionary history. Not all the Queen's horses nor all the Queen's 
men had been able to maintain this land agent in his beautiful home 

New Leaders at Home and Abroad 349 

on Lough Mask after the peasants had come to a knowledge of their 
own strength." 

Judge Lynch of Galway* 

The name of Lynch, as either provost, portreeve, "sovereign" or 
mayor of Galway, occurs no fewer than ninety-five times between the 
years 1274 and 1654; after that year it does not appear once. One of 
that name is famous in history as the Irish Junius Brutus. The mere 
fact is sufficiently wonderful without the aid of invention; but it has, 
as may be supposed, supplied material for a host of romances. 

The story is briefly this: James Lynch Fitzstephen was Mayor of 
Galway in 1493; he traded largely with Spain, and sent his son on a 
voyage thither to purchase and bring back a cargo of wine. Young 
Lynch, however, spent the money entrusted to him, and obtained 
credit from the Spaniard, whose nephew accompanied the youth back 
to Ireland to be paid the debt, and establish further intercourse. 
The ship proceeded on her homeward voyage, and as she drew near 
the Irish shore, young Lynch conceived the idea of concealing his 
crime by committing another, having seduced or frightened the crew 
into becoming participators. The [Spanish] youth was seized and 
thrown overboard. The father and friends of Lynch received the 
voyager with joy; and the murderer in a short time became himself 
a prosperous merchant. Security had lulled every sense of danger, and 
he proposed for a very beautiful girl, the daughter of a wealthy 
neighbour, in marriage. The proposal was accepted; but previous 
to the appointed day, one of the seamen became suddenly ill, and in a 
fit of remorse, summoned old Lynch to his dying bed, and committed 
to him a full relation of the villainy of his only and beloved son. Young 
Lynch was tried, found guilty, and sentenced to execution — the father 
being the judge. The wretched prisoner, however, had many friends 
among the people, and his relatives resolved with them that he should 
not die a shameful death. 

The day had scarcely broken when the signal of preparation was 
heard among the guards without. The father rose and assisted the 
executioner to remove the fetters which bound his unfortunate son. 
Then unlocking the door, he placed him between the priest and him- 
self, leaning upon an arm of each. In this manner they ascended a 
flight of steps lined with soldiers, and were passing out to gain the 
street when a new trial assailed the magistrate, for which he appears 

• From Ireland: Its Scenery, Character, Etc., by Mr. & Mrs. S. C. Hall, Vol. Ill, 
pp. 454-455. Virtue & Co. London. [1841?] 

350 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

not to have been prepared. His wretched wife, whose name was Blake, 
failing in her personal exertions to save the life of her son, had gone 
in distraction to the heads of her own family, and prevailed on them, 
for the honor of their house, to rescue him from ignominy. They flew 
to arms, and a prodigious concourse soon assembled to support them, 
whose outcries for mercy to the culprit would have shaken any nerves 
less firm than those of the Mayor of Galway. He exhorted them to 
yield submission to the laws of their country; but, finding all his 
efforts fruitless, to accomplish the ends at the accustomed place, and 
by the usual hand, he, by a desperate victory over paternal feeling 
resolved himself to perform the sacrifice which he had vowed to pay 
on the altar. r ' 

Still retaining hold of his son, he mounted with him by a winding 
stair within the building that led to an arched window overlooking the 
street, which he saw filled with the populace. Here he secured the end 
of a rope which had been previously fixed round the neck of his son 
to an iron staple which projected from the wall, and after taking from 
him a last embrace, he launched him into eternity. The intrepid Mayor 
expected instant death from the fury of the populace, but the people 
seemed as much overawed or confounded by the magnanimous act 
that they retired slowly and peaceably to their several dwellings The 
unhappy father of Walter Lynch is said to have secluded himself dur- 
ing the remainder of his life from all society, except that of his mourn- 
ing family. His house still exists in Lombard Street, Galway, which 
is yet known by the name of Dead Man's Lane. 

How Dan Donnelly Knocked Out the British Champion 

One of the most famous fights in the history of pugilism was that 
between the English and Irish champions, George Cooper and Dan 
Donnelly, which took place on the Curragh of Kildare, in the year 

Dan Donnelly was one of the greatest boxers ever seen in the ring 
— a man who, in prowess and other characteristics, much resembled 
John L. Sullivan. He was born in Dublin in 1788. He was a carpenter 
by trade, and a man of extraordinary strength, good temper, generosity, 

WUnn Ethics of Boxing and Manly Sport, by John Boyle O'Reilly, po 56-60 
Copynght. 1888, by John Boyle O'Reilly. Ticknor & Co. Boston. * "' 

New Leaders at Home and Abroad 351 


and pluck. He was noted in Dublin for his skill in boxing; but he was 
not a professional pugilist. 

In 1814, when Donnelly was twenty-six years old, one of the most 
famous boxers in England, named Thomas Hall, who had beaten 
George Cribband and other renowned fighters, went to Ireland to make 
a tour of the country, giving exhibits. His advent was proclaimed by 
an arrogantly worded challenge to "all Ireland." 

He was checked by finding that his challenge was at once publicly 
accepted in Dublin by Dan Donnelly, who was "backed" by as much 
money as was needed. 

The battle attracted international attention. In Ireland the excite- 
ment was very great. When the men met on the Curragh of Kildare, 
on the 14th of September, 1814, there were over thirty thousand per- 
sons present. Both men were cheered as they entered the ring; and the 
fight was fair until Hall, finding himself overmatched, fell several 
times without a blow, and ultimately raised a cry of "Foul" to cover 
his complete defeat. From the first round he had failed to make a 
single point on Donnelly, or to effectually stop one of Donnelly's. 

Then George Cooper, the best man in England, was sent from Lon- 
don against the Irish champion. 

Cooper had defeated the leading boxers of England, including 
Carter and Thomas Molineux, the Negro heavyweight, and great hopes 
were founded on his terrible hitting powers. 

The national champions met on the Curragh of Kildare, on the same 
spot that had witnessed Donnelly's victory over Hall. The place was 
called then, and will probably be called forever, "Donnelly's Hollow." 
It is at the Newbridge end of the plateau on which the military huts 
are erected. 

A Boston traveler visited the Curragh a few months ago, and was 
taken by a proud native to the scene of the famous battle. "The 
footsteps of the champions," said this gentleman the other day, "are 
still plainly visible. They are preserved in this way; every visitor, 
especially those who love the 'noble art,' puts his feet in the ancient 
marks, which are thus preserved and deepened in the soft green sod." 
The positions of the men as they began the fight are pointed out. 
"And over there," said the guide, "just outside the ring stood Miss 
Kelly, who wagered thousands of pounds on Dan Donnelly." 

The battle took place on December 13, 1815, in the forenoon. In 
Ireland the excitement over the fight was intense, and to this day 
the event is a topic of common conversation. On the morning of the 
fight, the roads around the Curragh of Kildare were choked up with 
carriages and wagons of all kinds, from the four-in-hand teams of the 

352 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

nobility to the donkey-carts of peasants all the way from Cork or 
Connaught. There was a vast multitude to see the fight, and the pro- 
foundest order and good temper prevailed. 

"Donnelly's Hollow" is probably one of the most perfect natural 
amphitheatres in the world. Here, on the sloping hill-sides, could stand 
or sit a hundred thousand men to behold a dramatic scene; and here, 
on that day, was assembled a greater crowd than had ever witnessed a 
boxing contest since the close of the Olympic games. An English cor- 
respondent of the press described Donnelly in these words: 

"Donnelly at length stripped, amid thunders of applause, The Venus 
de Medicis never underwent a more minute scrutiny than did the 
champion of Ireland. There is nothing loose or puffy about him He is 
strong and bony to all intents and purposes. He is all muscle. His arms 
are long and shngy, his shoulders uncommonly fine, particularly when 
in action, and prominently indicating their punishing quality. His 
head is a fighting one, his neck athletic and bold; in height nearly six 
feet, in weight about thirteen stone, and his tout ensemble that of a 
boxer with first-rate qualifications. Thus much for his person; now for 
his quality. His wind appears to be undebauched; his style is resolute 
firm, and not to be denied. Getting away he either disdains or does not 
acknowledge in his system of tactics. He makes tremendous use of his 
right hand." 

After a stormlike cheer, the fight began amid deep silence. From the 
first blow, Donnelly had the advantage. He gained the usual points- 
first blood and first knockdown. Cooper made a brave and desperate 
fight, and m the fifth round he knocked Donnelly off his feet. In the 
seventh round Cooper was actually flung into the air by a cross- 
buttock, and in the eighth was dashed under the ropes by a tremen- 
dous left-hander. 

For the next three rounds the result was similar, the eleventh and 
last round closing with a fearful right-hand blow on Cooper's mouth, 
which knocked him senseless. 

The battle was awarded to Donnelly, amid the cheers of both Irish 
and English spectators. Donnelly then went to England and challenged 
all comers. 

He attracted almost as much attention as Englishmen have recently 
given to Sullivan. Tom Cribb undoubtedly had been the leading boxer 
in his time; but he had retired from the ring several years before 
Donnelly s visit to England. 

England was in straits for a man able to meet Donnelly. It was 

New Leaders at Home and Abroad 353 

looked upon even by the government as dangerous, politically, to allow 
the Irish again to defeat a British champion. 

At length a strong and able boxer, Oliver, was found to take up 
Donnelly's challenge. When the match was made, the chances of the 
fight filled the Three Kingdoms once more with matter for earnest 
discussion. It was said that one hundred thousand pounds (five hun- 
dred thousand dollars) were laid in bets on the battle. Every man in 
Ireland who had a pound to spare backed Dan Donnelly; and the 
"nobility and gentry" stood open-handed behind Oliver. 

The national battle came off on July 21, 1819, within thirty miles 
of London. "Donnelly, on stripping," says the English report, "ex- 
hibited as fine a picture of the human frame as can well be imagined; 
indeed, if a sculptor wished a living model to display the action of the 
muscles, a finer subject than Donnelly could not have been found. 
Oliver was equally fine ... he displayed flesh as firm as a rock . . . 
Oliver had never been in so good condition before." 

It was a brave and desperate contest. As usual, Donnelly knocked 
his man down in the first round; drew his "first blood" in the second. 
In the seventh round, Oliver knocked Donnelly down, and this was 
almost his only successful point. Round after round ended in the same 
way — "Oliver down." In the thirteenth round, when Oliver lay help- 
less on the ropes, Donnelly threw up his hands, so as not to be tempted 
to strike him, and for this he received a great cheer. "Very handsome!" 
"Bravo Donnelly!" In the first hour there were thirty rounds fought, 
for the last four of which Oliver was gaining strength; but in the open- 
ing of the second hour Donnelly got his "second wind," and "his eye 
began to blaze," though, says the English report, "he was a cool as a 
cucumber." The next three rounds were Donnelly's, and then the 
Englishmen stopped betting and cheering. But they showed fair play 
throughout the fight; he is a poor kind of an Englishman who does not 
love fair play in a boxing match. Several times when "Foul" was cried 
against Donnelly, and when, indeed, it might have been allowed by an 
umpire bent on ending the fight on a technicality, both umpire and 
crowd shouted: "It is all right. Go on, Donnellyl" In the thirty-fourth 
round, Donnelly cross-countered Oliver with terrific force, striking 
him on the lower jaw; then while he was dazed, Donnelly whirled him 
over the ring with a cross-buttock; and Oliver's seconds carried him off 
insensible. The fight was given to Donnelly, who was scarcely marked, 
and who immediately dressed himself and went off to see another fight. 

It was said, and believed by many, that Dan Donnelly, shortly 
after the fight, was knighted by the rollicking Prince of Wales. At any 

354 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

rate, ever afterward he was called "Sir Dan." He died in 1820, from 
taking a drink of cold water after a hard sparring bout. He was only 
thirty-two years of age. 

Champion of Champions 

That new champion proved to be a real champion. His testing 
period was over, and during the next ten years he was to win immortal 
renown as the gladiator par excellence of the nineteenth century— the 
great, hulking hero whose fabulous achievements elevated pugilism 
into the realm of epic poetry. By 1882 his method of fighting was 
characterized by the artless perfection that always accompanies great 
art. For his technique was simplicity itself: he merely kept hammering 
with ruthless, atavistic ferocity at his opponents until the opponents 
became insensible. An ardent admirer once epitomized Sullivan's pre- 
eminent skill in this epigram: "Other boxers begin by sparring; he 
begins by fighting— and he never ceases to fight," 

It never seemed to occur to him that he could be beaten; indeed, he 
often had his rival whipped before a blow had been struck. The rival, 
looking fearfully across the ring, would see a burly, menacing figure 
just under six feet in height and weighing close to one hundretLand 
ninety pounds. The iron muscles bulged and swelled beneath the 
tawny skin; black, coarse hair bristled all over the huge head; the 
deep, thick hairy chest and the sloping shoulders betokened a man of 
extraordinary strength; the broad face, the square, pile-driver jaw, and 
the ominous droop at die corners of the mouth were all blended into 
a terrifying grin; the stone gray eyes plainly showed that he wondered 
why anybody in the world was foolish enough to climb into a ring 
with him. Then time would be called, and the lithe body leaped into 
flaming action. He "fought like a man with a personal grievance," and 
utterly disdained to defend himself. There was no fancy footwork, no 
dancing, no side-stepping; there was only a wicked rush, a stupendous 
swing or two — and all was over. 

From 1882 until 1892 Sullivan completely dominated the American 
prize ring. He was ready to fight any one— save only the redoubtable 
Negro, Peter Jackson— anywhere, at any time, for little money or 
even none. For in those sentimental days, men still fought because 

From John L. Sullivan, by R. F. Dibble, pp. 30-61. Copyright, 1925. by Little. 
Brown & Co. Boston. ' 

New Leaders at Home and Abroad 355 

they liked to fight; the commercialism of sport in America had barely 
begun. There were, of course, plenty of blusterers who were excessively 
bold — on paper. Scarcely had John become the champion of America 
when scores of amusingly egotistical challenges were hurled at him. 
He quickly discovered that it was absolutely impossible to pin these 
braggarts down to definite engagements, and was therefore obliged to 
repay them in their own coin, in order to keep his escutcheon spotless. 
On March 23, 1882, this notice appeared on sporting pages all 
through the land: 

There has been so much newspaper talk from parties who state that 
they are desirous of meeting me in the ring that I am disgusted. Never- 
theless, I am willing to fight any man in this country, for five thousand 
dollars a side; or, any man in the old country for the same amount at 
two months from signing articles, — I to use gloves, and he, if he pleases, 
to fight with the bare knuckles. I will not fight again with the bare 
knuckles, as I do not wish to put myself in a position amenable to the 
law. My money is always ready, so I want these fellows to put up 
or shut up. 

John L. Sullivan 

After this, Sullivan was less bothered by paperweight fighters, and 
was therefore able to resume what he loved to call his "series of pic- 
nics" — a guarantee that he would whip any one within four rounds 
or forfeit fifty dollars. Before John pounced upon his opponent in 
these conflicts, his manager invariably admonished him to "finish his 
man, but to be careful and not knock him out forever." Pat Sheedy, 
one of Sullivan's first managers, once did something that aroused his 
pupil's ire, and the pupil at once offered to beat up his teacher. Trem- 
bling with fear, Pat stuck a Derringer against John's ribs and begged 
for mercy. The only person who ever really managed Sullivan, in fact, 
was one who was strong enough to down his pupil — not by fighting, 
but by wrestling. 

The "series of picnics" proved to be immensely popular. At every 
city masses of people surged in to see "The Ideal Thumper" thump his 
unfortunate opponent. When the national hero stepped grandly forth 
upon the platform, pandemonium would break loose; but occasionally 
individual comments became audible above the deafening roar. "Well, 
if he ain't just like his picturel" "Ain't he the darling?" "Oh, he's a 
daisy and in full bloom tool" "Look at the neck on himl" When the 
battle began, the mob would invariably shout for blood. Once, when 
John was fighting rather mildly with an antediluvian American cham- 

356 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

pion, cries of "Go in and mop him upl" arose. Sullivan stood stock 
still, then stepped to the front of the platform, raised his hand and 
said, "Gentlemen, this affair tonight is just a friendly set-to. Some day 
I may oblige you by killing a man." 

At times, before the combat had started, some spectators would 
shout sarcastic remarks at John, to the effect that the particular op- 
ponent of the evening would prove to be his Waterloo; but Sullivan 
had a set speech for such a contingency: "The bigger they are, the 
harder they'll fall." A favorite taunt directed against him was, "Pull 
off your gloves and fight like a man; the feller you're nghtin' ain't 
wearin' no gloves." John would quietly reply, "If I don't use gloves, 
I'll kill him." One night, as soon as Sullivan came forth, it was pain- 
fully obvious that he had boils all over the back of his neck; and 
various voices charitably suggested that his opponent would be certain 
to direct his attack at the boils. "If he hits 'em, I'll only beat him all 
the quicker," John retorted; and, to the frenzied delight of the spec- 
tators, both prophecies were speedily fulfilled. 

When the bell sounded time, Sullivan would sometimes stick out 
his head, so that his foe might imagine he had a chance to hit him; 
but the foe rarely dared to take such a hazardous risk, for fear that 
the champion was merely toying with him. Occasionally, after John 
had knocked his opponent out in a particularly effective fashion, the 
sympathy of the audience for the under dog would manifest itself in 
rumbling threats: "He ought to be lynchedl" "Kill the big brute!" 
Then John would pull off his gloves, pick up his senseless rival and 
help to revive him; and the crowd would promptly forget its anger 
and cheer the victor to the roof. Thus encouraged, John would ad- 
vance and make a prepared speech — though at times he would luckily 
forget the oration that his friends had composed for him and would 
improvise a much better one. When the crowd had departed it often 
happened, strange to say, that Sullivan and the man whom he had just 
pummeled would meet in the same saloon; and the vanquished man 
would say something like this: "John, you're a great chap. I've licked 
everybody in these parts; you're the first guy that ever even knocked 
me down." "Have a drink!" John would growl in a tone that was in- 
tended to be friendly. 

The cutest boxer who ever faced Sullivan was doubtless Charlie 
Mitchell, the slippery Englishman who first fought the champion in 
Madison Square Garden on May 14, 1883. In the first round an unbe- 
lievable event occurred — John was knocked down — a catastrophe that 

New Leaders at Home and Abroad 357 

had never happened before. Perhaps it will be best to let John himself 
explain how this calamity occurred: "My legs got crossed somehow, 
and just at this time Mitchell hit me, knocking me down as you would 
push over a chair. Then I got up and went for him like a bull at a 
rag." In the third round, in fact, John knocked Mitchell completely 
across the ring, where he tottered about, clinging feebly to the ropes. 
At this point the police interfered, even though Sullivan begged the 
police captain— a good friend o£ his— to let the bout go on. "Captain," 
he implored, "let me have just one more crack at him." "John, do you 
want to kill him?" the officer mildly answered. 

No seats were provided for the audience at this historic affair; the 
whole crowd stood. Among the most notable spectators present was 
Roscoe Conkling. When the long black coat and the silk top hat 
announced his arrival, a seat was hastily built for him by laying a 
plank across two beer kegs; and from this place of honor he surveyed 
the proceedings with all his accustomed senatorial dignity. It was, 
indeed, a motley gathering: bankers, pickpockets, lawyers, thieves, 
brokers, merchants, Bowery pimps, coachmen, dudes, men about town, 
actors, baseball players, and millionaires — every one from Fifth Ave- 
nue to the underworld elbowed and shoved to get near the ring. Each 
person distrusted his neighbor; each person kept his eyes on the fight- 
ers and his hand on his purse. On account of this watchfulness, no 
untoward event occurred except John's awful downfall; and the whole 
gathering buzzed with excitement as numerous explanations were 
advanced. There were rumors, even at that early date, that the cham- 
pion was drinking too much — for what other possible reason could he 
have been floored? But after the fight, when quizzed by reporters as 
to the truth of these insinuations, John angrily replied, "I ain't 
touched a drop to-day, and that report's all damned nonsense." He 
then proceeded to Bentley's saloon, to pass the rest of the evening as 
a champion should. 

But when on June 30, 1884, he met Mitchell again, there was no 
possible doubt as to his condition. Instead of wearing his usual cos- 
tume — a pair of green trunks, encircled by an American flag — he was 
in full evening dress. Diamond rings flashed on his fingers, and dia- 
mond studs as big as nutmegs blazed on his shirt. Yet, as he came 
reeling across the ring, no one could fail to see how disreputably di- 
sheveled he was: his face was swollen, blotched, and unshaven, his 
half-closed eyes were bloodshot, his hair was tousled. Hundreds of 
voices chimed together, "Sullivan's full as a goat!" As he swayed, 
lurched, and leered above the ropes, his trainer announced: "Gentle- 
men, Mr. Sullivan's doctor won't let him spar. He ain't well and can't 

358 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

fight." The champion's thick, husky voice hiccoughed: "GenTmen, 
thish the firs' time I ever come to New York to fight and wan't able to 
do it. But I been sick, an' I ain't in no condition to fight. Some may 
think I'm drunk, but I'm just dead sick. The doctor's certificate says 
so." Then Mitchell announced that he, too, had "been a 'avin' a bad 
time of it with malaria, and maybe it would be just as well not to 
fight." A man, primed for the act, rose and sheepishly threw a bou- 
quet at Sullivan's feet; he awkwardly picked it up and staggered away 
as fast as he could. Several unimportant bouts followed — for the admis- 
sion money was not returned. The commercialism of sport and the 
downfall of Sullivan had simultaneously begun. 

Sickness of this particular variety became increasingly common to 
John. The time was rapidly approaching, in fact, when he would no 
longer be able to prove the truth of the two boasts he was so fond of 
making: that he could whip any man born of woman, and could con- 
sume any amount of liquor, in any combination, and still walk straight. 
In his drunken moments he was philosophical, sentimental, generous, 
or vicious. When philosophical, he preferred long words; he would use 
all that he knew, and then look up others in a dictionary. A friend 
once tested him with "discriminate." He glowered reproachfully and 
countered with the remark, "I've got a pretty good nut on me" — but 
the word remained undefined. 

When he was sentimental, he would roar out, "Oh, White, White 
Moon" and "Go Tell Aunt Rhody" till the surrounding walls trem- 
bled. Once, when he was shown the skeleton of a crucifixion fish— so 
named because it resembled the figure of a man on a cross — John gazed 
at it in awestruck wonder, solemnly crossed himself, backed timidly 
away, and stuttered in a touchingly reverent manner, "That's almost as 
good as going to church. I'd give a good deal to own it." Al Smith 
(John's manager in 1884) was accustomed to lecture him very sternly 
for drinking so much; and John would be exceedingly humble and act 
very much like a naughty schoolboy. Swishing his large red handker- 
chief copiously around his red eyes, he would whimper, "I can't help 
it, Al. Everybody's running after me with, 'John, have a drink' here 
and 'John, have a drink' there. I don't like to make anybody mad by 
refusing. So, how can I help it?" Then Al, shaking eight monitory 
fingers and two angry thumbs in John's face, would snappishly reply, 
"See, see, you're ruining your health; see, don't you see I'm right?" 

When John was feeling generous, he would whirl through the 
streets, throwing quantities of small change right and left at the crowds 
of small boys who always tagged him whenever he appeared in public. 
But when he was vicious, everybody gave him as wide a berth as pos- 

New Leaders at Home and Abroad 359 

sible. Stories — largely apocryphal, perhaps — are still told, illustrating 
his dreadful behavior on such occasions. He would come swaggering 
and swirling into some favorite saloon and whoop, "I'll lick any man 
in the house right here now! Them's my sentiments, John L. Sullivan, 
that's mel" Then he would go tearing around, smashing all the glass- 
ware in the place and afterward grandly pay for it; or he would offer 
to drink twice as much liquor, of any sort, as any one present, and 
would belch forth shouts of victorious joy as his less gifted challengers 
sprawled, one after another, on the floor. 

His sprees became more and more frequent, until they began to in- 
terfere seriously with his puglistic engagements. Once, when he was 
scheduled to meet an unknown opponent at eight in the evening, his 
friends found him at seven o'clock sprawled out on a bench, wheezing 
and gasping in a drunken semi-slumber. The case was plainly desper- 
ate, and they therefore decided to use desperate remedies. After they 
had succeeded in partially arousing him, they poured this dire proph- 
ecy in to his ears: "John you don't realize what you're going to run up 
against to-night. We've seen the fellow and he's a regular terror." 
John merely grunted and told them to get out of the room; but, after 
a great deal of effort, they managed to drag him into his dressing 
room, where they put his head under a faucet, rubbed his face with 
bay rum and pulled him on the stage— and he promptly sank down 
into a chair. But when time was called, a marvelous change came over 
him. Leaping ferociously forward, he struck one blow— and the "reg- 
ular terror" was a senseless lump. Then John retired to the dressing 
room, sprawled on the same bench, and promptly went to sleep again. 

Very frequently, too, he was arrested for public intoxication. Indeed, 
the Boston police vied with each other in a friendly competition to 
see who could hale John before a court more frequently, for in this 
way an enviable notoriety was gained— their names would appear in 
print next day beside the name of Boston's most renowned citizen. 
One day John stepped on a street-car, leading his pet dog with him. 
The conductor, who unfortunately failed to recognize the passenger, 
snapped, "No dogs on herel I'll kick him offl" "If you do," retorted 
John, "you'll go off yourself." The conductor at once made good his 
promise — and so did John. A policeman near by, overjoyed at his un- 
expected good fortune, at once placed Sullivan under arrest. When he 
came before the court, the judge fined him $100 and inquired, "Any- 
thing to say, John?" "Yes," he chuckled; "let me hit him again and I'll 
pay you $200." 

360 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

Another policeman, who hoped to make a name for himself, was less 
fortunate. Happening to see John cavorting around in a street to the 
delight of an enthusiastic audience, the officer stepped up and said, 
"You're drunk; you're under arrest." "That ain't true," said John, with 
a prodigious grin, "but even if it was I'll be sober to-morrow, while 
you'll be a damned fool all your life." The poor policeman was so 
utterly taken aback by this retort that he beat an undignified retreat, 
amid the jeers of the gleeful unlookers. 

Drunk or sober, however, Sullivan was still the champion. From 
September, 1883, to May, 1884, he went with a theatrical troupe which 
gave exhibitions at over two hundred places. His part in this "variety 
show and athletic combination" was the same as of old. He fought all 
challengers who dared to face him, on successive nights, and when no 
one appeared he gave a boxing exhibition with a traveling partner. 
During these months, fifty-nine men tried to win the coveted $ 1,000, 
but they all met with the same woeful fate. One unfortunate, whom 
John disposed of in two seconds at Knoxville, Tennessee, recovered his 
senses in twenty minutes and inquired, "Did I win?" Sullivan thought 
this question was so insulting that he immediately knocked the egotist 
out again, for an even longer period of time. 

In Indiana John once faced a ponderous caveman called "The 
Tripper of Cornellsville," who, according to frightful stories that had 
been circulated, had on various occasions "lifted over eight hundred 
pounds and knocked down a bull with his fists." At the beginning, the 
Hoosier Goliath came strutting forth in the utmost confidence that he 
would soon lay the champion low. His excessively vain behavior gave 
both Sullivan and his manager their cue: whenever a particularly for- 
midable challenger appeared, they employed a device that would have 
warmed the cockles of P. T. Barnum's heart. The manager said, in a 
loud stage whisper, "Why, this chap'll murder you, John! I guess we'd 
better postpone this meeting." The audience at once went into a frenzy 
—for, as Sullivan later explained, "We used to pull that kind of stuff 
right along to get the crowd worked up." When the fight began John 
appeared to be very nervous, and every one howled with delight at 
the prospect of seeing a new champion made that night. The challen- 
ger naturally grew more and more overconfident, and smiled in a most 
irritating way during the first round, as he pursued his apparently 
discomfited rival around the ring. But in the second round Sullivan 
suddenly changed his tactics. The look of abject fear, carefully simu- 
lated for the occasion, was replaced by that ineffable sneer that had 
already given him the high distinction of being called "the toughest- 
looking man in America." In a flash, he smote his antagonist under the 


New Leaders at Home and Abroad 361 

left ear; and, as a result, when time was called for the third round, 
"the Yahoo was still asleep." When, after a long delay, he finally came 
out of his slumber, he inquired whether he "had fell off a barn." 
Informed that something far worse than that had happened to him, 
he mournfully responded, "Well, I guess I never was cut out for a 
prize fighter." 

By this time, the nation was ready to fall down at Sullivan's feet. 
Nothing was too good for him— there had never been anybody like 
him before— there never would be anybody like him again. His arrival 
at any town or city was the event of the year— almost of the century. 
Business was suspended and everybody went on a Roman holiday 
when the "Noblest Roman of Them All" came on the scene. Every 
schoolboy considered it a matter of honor to play hookey and follow 
John wherever he went. At this time the old-fashioned horse-car was 
still the chief means of metropolitan travel; and, to prove to the 
crowds that he was the veritable dare-devil that folk mythology had 
created, he would often run up to one of these cars when it was in full 
motion, seize hold and swing himself aboard, while shrieks of mingled 
horror and delight sounded on every side. Every neck was stretched 
to its utmost capacity, and every pair of eyes tried to follow him as, 
dressed in a big gray sweater, gray sport trousers, and a dirty-looking 
striped cap, he went swaggering along. Meanwhile all sorts of soulful 
ejaculations arose from the crowd: "That's him, ain't it?" "No, that 
ain't him, that's himl" "No, it ain't; I tell you, I seen him eo up that 
wayl" "Big?" "You betl" 

And if this was true throughout the land, how much more true was 
it of Bostonl Conditions there soon became so bad that, whenever 
John ventured forth, he was in almost constant danger of being seri- 
ously injured by the worshipping thousands who mobbed him. Bos- 
ton's most eminent citizens were ready to back him with any sum, 
"from a dollar to the Bunker Hill Monument," as one of them put it. 
A certain play, very popular in those days, contained this bit of dia- 
logue between two characters: "Are you from Boston?" "Yes." "Know 
any big folks there?" "Yes." "Know John L.?" "Yes." "Ever shake 
hands with him?" "Yes." "Let me shake the hand that shook the hand 
of John L. Sullivanl" 

Reporters came to see him by the dozen, and, always glad of an 
opportunity to advertise himself, he generally treated them well. . . . 

A New York reporter, who was curiously strait-laced, felt moved to 
comment in this way on Sullivan's similarity to Socrates in the matter 

362 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

of corrupting the youth: "The lamentable feature of these gatherings 
of worshippers at the shrine of the slug-god is the presence of throngs of 
boys." He then cited two terrible examples. One youth, of whom 
a friend inquired, "Johnnny, are you going to dinner?" had peevishly 
retorted, "Dinner be damned! I'm going to see Sullivan." Another 
New York boy, an ardent admirer of Sullivan, had timorously ap- 
proached him one day and asked, in a quavering tone, what sort of 
food he usually ate. John, who was feeling out of sorts, glared at the 
shaking lad and boomed: "Blood, nothing but blood! I drain a boy 
about your size three times a day." Logically enough, a rumor soon 
spread that Sullivan actually did live on blood — for the most part, the 
blood of cattle — and slaughter houses all through the country were 
forthwith besieged by anemic youths who were eager to emulate their 
hero's example. 

But there was one form of notoriety that John indignantly dis- 
claimed. Certain intense worshippers of simon-pure English and Amer- 
ican blood had insisted that he was of Anglo-Saxon descent. Finally, 
a letter signed with Sullivan's name appeared, in which the hideous 
charge was repeated. John's righteous wrath, stirred by this low for- 
gery, took the form of a flaming speech which was delivered at the 
end of one of his exhibition bouts. 

"Of course I never tore off no such letter!" he roared in tones that 
shook the rafters. "I never knowed a Sullivan that wasn't straight 
Irish without any chasers to it. There may be some whitewashed Sulli- 
vans, but I don't know 'em and don't want to. In Boston, on the 
seventeenth of March, they celebrate Saint Patrick's Day and Evacua- 
tion Day at the same time; for the British beat it from Boston on that 
day when the decision went against them more than a hundred years 
ago. If there's any Anglo-Saxon Sullivans on the job, you bet your 
sweet life they cover it up, for they know the Sullivans who ain't 
Anglo-Saxons would do 'em up good if they got wise to it." 

Public enthusiasm for John finally reached its height in the presen- 
tation of the famous diamond-and-gold belt. The illustrious ceremony 
took place in the Boston Theatre on August 8, 1887. Boston's mayor, 
her aldermen, the members of her Common Council were all there, in 
boxes and on the stage. Men in full evening regalia filled the orches- 
tra, while the galleries were packed with a mob of howling rowdies. 
It happened that John was late, and so the gallery toughs began to 
screech out uncomplimentary, not to say indecent, remarks which 
advanced bold speculations as to the probable reasons for Sullivan's 

New Leaders at Home and Abroad 363 

tardiness as well as the moral caliber of various individuals in the 
audience. Suddenly Pat Sheedy rushed to the center of the stage, shook 
his massive fists at the shrieking gang, and, in a voice that rose above 
the terrific pandemonium, roared out, "You fellows want to remember 
that Sullivan and myself are gentlemen with gentlemen, but among 
toughs we're kings!" Since not even the most disreputable brute within 
the range of Pat's voice dared to dispute the truth of his dictum, the 
din stopped at once. 

When John at last appeared, no coronation ceremony ever surpassed 
the scene that followed. All animosities were instantly forgotten. With 
the precision of Junker troops, the crowd rose and spontaneously raised 
a series of huzzas that threatened to bring the whole building down 
in ruins. When, in about a quarter of an hour, comparative silence 
fell, there followed what was perhaps the greatest moment in a life 
that was an almost unbroken succession of great moments. A Coun- 
cilman, who had already achieved enviable distinction by the gallantry 
he had shown Queen Liliuokalani during her recent visit to Boston, 
stepped pompously forth and clasped the $10,000 belt around the 
heroic torso. Next day the local papers stated that the champion 
"made quite a creditable speech"— a remark that was much more 
truthful than their characterization of the audience as "an eminently 
respectable gathering." 

The official description of the belt ran thus: "It is forty-eight inches 
In length and twelve inches in width, and is the largest piece of flat 
gold ever seen in this country. ... It took about three months to com- 
plete it. The panels are studded with [397] diamonds." This, however, 
sounds rather cold and lifeless, and John should be allowed to add 
the necessary personal touch: "The belt is my own personal property. 
My name on the belt is composed of two hundred and fifty stones. 
The one I got from the Police Gazette looks like a dog collar alongside 
of this one." 

Naturally enough, the glorious emblem was eagerly sought by col- 
lectors and crooks. At the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, a 
clever imitation of the belt was exhibited. Pat Sheedy himself, who was 
completely taken in, excitedly urged all of his friends to see it. Nothing 
in the whole place, so he swore, nothing at all — not even the two- 
headed fat lady — was so well worth traveling hundreds of miles to see. 
The fakir who showed this counterfeit made over $200 a week, and 
was busily devising plans to show some dozens of similar imitations 
throughout the land, when his trickery was detected and a just fate 
laid him low. A strict regard for historical truth demands the fact to 
be recorded that the actual career of this notorious work of art was 

364 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

decidedly less romantic than its illegitimate progeny. Before many 
years had passed, John was forced to pawn it. Then it was redeemed — 
and repawned — until finally poor John was compelled to surrender his 
treasured trophy to his creditors forever. 

Gentleman Jim Corbett Defeats John L. 

Meyers came down into the dining room and met us. I knew him 
very well and liked him very much. He had a big black eye and a 
cracked lip, and I started to 'kid' him about these marks of his battle. 
"You may look worse than I do when Sullivan gets through with you 
tonight," he retorted. 

"No, Billy," I replied. "Sullivan won't have to hit me as many times 
as McAuliffe did you, to lick me. If it's done, it will be done with one 

So we talked and joked with each other, and finally, about 9 o'clock, 
we started for the Olympic Club. 

Now the following incident comes back to me as I write these words, 
thirty-three years afterwards: 

As I was starting to put on a light summer suit, with a straw hat and 
a little bamboo cane to match, Delaney exclaimed, "My God! You're 
not going to the fight that way, are you?" 

"Certainly, Mr. Delaney," I replied, examining myself in the mirror, 
as if I thought I looked grand. 

It was too much for him. He wanted me to go to the arena like the 
usual short-haired, big-sweatered type of pug with a scowl that would 
scare people, and here I looked like a dude that a good man could 
break in two. For a moment, he couldn't say anything; simply looked 
his disgust. 

"What difference does it make how I'm dressed going up?" I con- 
tinued, as I gave a little extra twist to my tie. "I don't expect to fight 
in these clothes." 

But it did make a difference to Billy, and he started to protest. I 
had begun the conversation in fun, but possibly I was getting a little 
nervous, as the hour drew nearer; anyway we had a heated argument 

From The Roar of the Crowd, The True Tate of the Rise and Fall of a Champion 
by James J. Corbett. pp. 191-202. Copyright, 1925. by James J. Corbett. Garden Cily 
Publishing Co. Copyright, 1953, by Vera Corbett. G. P. Puinam's Sons. 


New Leaders at Home and Abroad 365 

which lasted until I cut it short. "This is the way I'm going and that 
settles it," I said, and out I started, cane, straw hat and all. 

The streets of the city were black with people, and as our carriage 
was working through, all I could bear from every side was the mur- 
mur: "Sullivan," "Sullivan," "Sullivan!" Not once did I hear the name 
of "Corbett"; it was all Sullivan in the air. 

We reached the club and I stepped out. As I walked in at the door, 
right ahead of me hurried my old friend, "Mose" Guntz, from San 
Francisco, the one who gave Jack Dempsey a thousand dollars to sec- 
ond Choinyski against me. After that incident we had become great 
friends, and have been such ever since. 

He turned around at my hail and started to speak cheerfully, but 
when he saw my get-up, he looked kind of embarrassed and strange, 
and, although he didn't say anything about my trimmings, I knew 
what effect they had on him, also that it wouldn't be but a couple ot 
minutes before someone would tell Sullivan that Corbett came to the 
club with a cane in his hand and a straw hat on, like a dudel I could 
picture the look on Sullivan's face when he heard this news. 

When I reached my dressing room, one of the club managers came 
in and announced, "Sullivan wants to toss up for corners." 

"Let him take any corner he likes," I answered. I started to get 
ready. "He's going in the ring first anyway." 

Word immediately came back that / was to go in the ring first. How- 
ever, the question was settled by Brady's going down to Sullivan's 
dressing room and tossing a coin. 

Now the only reason for my insisting that Sullivan enter ahead of 
me was the wonderful ovation I knew Sullivan would receive. Just 
then I felt quite calm, and I didn't want anything to excite me in any 
way, and it was possible his great reception might. But Brady had won 
the toss and finally it was announced that Sullivan was in the ring. 

My seconds and I started down the aisle. The seats were banked 
circus-fashion and only a few of the audience could see us, but I could 
see the ring and Sullivan was not in it. The managers had lied to me. 
So I stopped. 

Now Sullivan thought I was in the ring, because I had started and 
enough time had elapsed for me to get there. As I stopped and turned 
back I met Sullivan, for the first time since I had boxed with him in 
San Francisco at my benefit. I looked him in the eye and said, "You're 
the champion and I'm the short end. You're going in that ring first, 
if we stand here all night!" 

This enraged Sullivan, who was always aggressive in manner, any 
way. He gave a roar like a wounded lion, strode down the aisle and 

366 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

bounded into the ring. Never before or since have I heard an ovation 
equal to that given him as he came through the ropes. 

I said a little prayer to myself: "I hope to God I am as cool in the 
ring as I am now," and then, as the cheers subsided, skipped into the 
ring, receiving the usual reception that any fellow would get from an 
audience, which meant about as much as, — "Well, anyway, he showed 

About six months before this I had had a conversation with my dear 
old friend, Judge Lawlor, of the Choinyski fight days, in which he 
asked me how I thought I would fight Sullivan — what I thought my 
tactics would be. And I distinctly remember telling him the most im- 
portant thing in my fight with Sullivan would be to convince him 
that there was one man he was going to meet who was not licked 
before the fight started. 

"How are you going to do that?" inquired the Judge. 

"I don't know myself; but I've got to do it, someway." 

When I entered the ring I noticed that the floor was of turf instead 
of boards, on which I had always trained and fought. My shoes were 
of the solid sort used nowadays and I wondered how my feet would 
hold on turf. As soon as I entered the ring I started dancing around, 
and found that my teet would hold pretty well — in fact, much better 
than I had expected — so I was considerably relieved. 

There was a reason, you see, for these jumping-jack antics that night, 
but I wish someone would tell me why present-day fighters do the 
same thing. They have been training on boards, and are fighting on 
boards, and using the same shoes and everything, so there is no reason 
for the practice unless to cover up nervousness. But it has been fol- 
lowed generally by fighters ever since that night. It is funny how 
customs and habits go down from generation to generation. 

Meanwhile, Sullivan sat in his corner trying to catch my eye, his 
clenched fists on his knees, elbows out, and his head thrust forward in 
an ugly fashion. He had a wicked eye. 

Now, as I had always done before, I was trying to convince him 
that he was the last person or thing in the world I was thinking about. 
I was bowing to people I didn't even see, smiling at entire strangers, 
waving my hand and talking to my seconds, laughing all the time. 

Finally the referee, whose name was John Duffy, called us up to the 
centre of the ring for our final instructions. We walked up, Sullivan 
with his arms still folded, looking right at my eyes, — not in them, for 
I never met his stare, — and rising and falling on his toes without a 
pause. I waited for the referee, my gaze on him, and you could have 
heard a pin drop in the place. You wouldn't think 10,000 people 

New Leaders at Home and Abroad S67 

could be so quiet. At last the referee got down to "hitting in clinches." 
"When I tell you to break," he told us, "I want you to drop your 

Immediately I grasped the referee by the shoulder — mind you, all for 
the effect on Sullivan — and sneered, "That's very well for you to say, 
'Drop your arms when I say Break!' But suppose this fellow" (even 
then I didn't look at Sullivan, just jerked my thumb at him) "takes a 
punch at me when / drop my arms?" 

"If he does that, he'll lose the fight; and you'll lose, too, if you try 
it," Duffy answered. 

"Then what about clinching like this?" I asked, and took hold of 
the referee and put my elbow up under his chin, pushing his head 
back, and repeated, "What if he does this?" 

"That's a foul, of course," he answered. "The one that does it will 
be cautioned once. If he tries it a second time, he loses the fight." 

"All right," I said, as gruffly as I could, "that's all I wanted to know." 

Then, for the first time since entering the ring, I looked Sullivan 
square in the eye and very aggressively, too. He stopped his rising and 
falling on his toes and stood staring at me as if he were petrified, so 
surprised was he at this sudden change in my attitude, and I saw at 
once it had the effect I intended: I had him guessingl 

In a very cocksure manner I jerked the towel from my shoulders, 
turned my back on him and ripped out, "Let her go!" 

This piece of business had its effect not only on Sullivan, but also 
on the audience, for they cheered me louder then than they had when 
I entered the ring. They must have come to the conclusion, "Why, 
this fellow thinks he can whip Sullivan. We''l see a fight!" 

"Time" was called, and the first round was on. 

Now, I knew that the most dangerous thing I could do was to let 
Sullivan work me into a corner when I was a little tired or dazed, so 
I made up my mind that I would let him do this while I was still fresh. 
Then I could find out what he intended doing when he got me there. 
„. In a fight, you know, when a man has you where he wants you, he is 
going to deliver the best goods he has. 

From the beginning of the round Sullivan was aggressive — wanted 
to eat me up right away. He came straight for me and I backed and 
backed, finally into a corner. While I was there I observed him setting 
himself for a right-hand swing, first slapping himself on the thigh with 
his left hand — sort of a trick to balance himself for a terrific swing 
with his right. But before he let the blow go, just at the right instant, 
I sidestepped out of the corner and was back in the middle of the ring 
again, Sullivan hot after me. 


368 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

I allowed him to back me into all four corners, and he thought he 
was engineering all this, that it was his own work that was cornering 
me. But I had learned what I wanted to know, — just where to put my 
head to escape his blow if he should get me cornered and perhaps 
dazed. He had shown his hand to me. 

In the second round he was still backing me around the ring. I 
hadn't even struck at him yet, and the audience on my right hissed 
me for running away and began to call me "Sprinter." Now I could 
see at a glance that Sullivan was not quite near enough to hit me, so 
suddenly I turned my side to him, waved both hands to the audience 
and called out, "Wait a while! You'll see a fight." 

That made an awful "sucker" out of Sullivan, as the gallery-birds 
say, and it was quite unexpected. And since he didn't know that I knew 
he couldn't reach me when I pulled this stunt, he was the more cha- 
grined. So he dashed right at me, angry as a bull, but immediately I 
was away again. At the end of the round I went to my corner, and said 
to Brady and Delaney, "Why, I can whip this fellow slugging!" 

At this there was a panic in my corner, all of them starting to whine 
and pleading with me. 

"You said you were going to take your time," they said. "What are 
you going to take any chances for?" 

"All right," I replied, to comfort them, "but I'll take one good 
punch at him this round, anyway." 

So far Sullivan hadn't reached me with anything but glancing blows, 
and it was my intention, when the third round started, to hit him my 
first punch, and I felt that it must be a good one! If my first punch 
didn't hurt him, he was going to lose all respect for my hitting ability. 

So, with mind thoroughly made up, I allowed him to back me once 
more into a corner. But although this time I didn't intend to slip out, 
by my actions I indicated that I was going to, just as I had before. 
As we stood there, fiddling, he crowding almost on top of me, I 
glanced, as I had always done before, first to the left, then to the right, 
as if looking for some way to get out of his corner. He, following my 
eye and thinking I wanted to make a getaway, determined that he 
wouldn't let me out this time! 

For once he failed to slap himself on the thigh with his left hand, 
but he had his right hand all ready for the swing as he was gradually 
crawling up on me. Then, just as he finally set himself to let go a 
vicious right I beat him to it and loosed a left-hand for his face with 
all the power I had behind it. His head went back and I followed it 
up with a couple of other punches and slugged him back over the 

New Leaders at Home and Abroad 369 

ring and into his corner. When the round was over his nose was 

At once there was pandemonium in the audiencel All over the house, 
men stood on their chairs, coats off, swinging them in the air. You 
could have heard the yells clear to the Mississippi Riverl 

But the uproar only made Sullivan the more determined. He came 
out of his corner in the fourth like a roaring lion, with an uglier 
scowl than ever, and bleeding considerably at the nose. I felt sure now 
that I would beat him, so made up my mind that, though it would 
take a little longer, I would play safe. 

From that time on I started doing things the audience were seeing 
for the first time, judging from the way they talked about the fight 
afterwards. I would work a left-hand on the nose, then a hook into 
the stomach, a hook up on the jaw again, a great variety of blows, in 
fact; using all the time such quick side-stepping and footwork that the 
audience seemed to be delighted and a little bewildered, as was also 
Mr. Sullivan. That is, bewildered, for I don't think he was delighted. 

In the twelfth round we clinched, and, with the referee's order, 
"Break away," I dropped my arms, when Sullivan let go a terrific 
right-hand swing from which I just barely got away; as it was it just 
grazed the top of my head. Some in the audience began to shout 
"foul!" but I smiled and shook my head, to tell them, "I don't want it 
that way." 

So the next eight rounds continued much in the fashion of toreador 
and the bull, Sullivan making his mad rushes and flailing away with 
his arms; rarely landing on me, but as determined as ever. Meanwhile 
I was using all the tricks in my boxing repertoire, which was an en- 
tirely new one for that day and an assortment that impressed the 
audience. Then I noticed that he was beginning to puff and was slow- 
ing down a little. 

When we came up for the twenty-first round it looked as if the fight 
would last ten or fifteen rounds longer. Right away I went up to him, 
feinted with my left and hit him with a left-hand hook alongside the 
jaw pretty hard, and I saw his eyes roll. Quicker than it takes to tell 
it, I saw that I had then the same chance that I had had in the fight 
with Peter Jackson, but had failed to take — the same chance that was 

/Firpo's when Dempsey stood helpless before him, and which he also 
failed to take. 

This time I did not let it slip. Summoning all the reserve force I had 
left I let my guns go, right and left, with all the dynamite Nature had 
given me, and Sullivan stood dazed and rocking. So I set myself for an 

370 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

instant, put just a little more in a right and hit him alongside the jaw. 
And he fell helpless on the ground, on his stomach, and rolled over on 
his back! The referee, his seconds, and mine picked him up and put 
him in his corner; and the audience went wild. 

As Sullivan struck the floor, the few people who were for me jumped 
up and yelled, but the mass of that vast audience were still as death; 
just clenched their hands, hoping their champion would rise. When 
the last count ended and it was over beyond doubt, then came an 
uproar like Niagara tumbling over the cliffs, followed by the greatest 
shower you ever saw, of hats, coats, canes, belts, flowers from button- 
holes, everything, falling on me and my seconds and all over the floor 
of the ring. I have often thought what a business I could have started 
down in Baxter Street with such an assorted stock! 

So the roar of the crowd went on. I should have felt proud and 
dazed, but the only thing I could think of, right after the knockout, 
was Sullivan lying there on the floor. I was actually disgusted with the 
crowd, and it left a lasting impression on me. It struck me as sad to see 
all those thousands who had given him such a wonderful ovation when 
he entered the ring turning it to me now that he was down and out. 

In justice to the man who had reigned so long as champion of the 
world, I think it is only fair to say that I was not fighting the Sullivan 
I had seen and admired in San Francisco at the Paddy Ryan bout, 
then twenty-six and in the pink of condition; but a man who had not 
been careful of his habits and who had enjoyed too much the good 
fellowship and popularity the championship brings. I got him when 
he was slipping; and that goes for all the champions down the line. 

It is very hard to tell, as you gaze down the list at all the defeated 
champions of the past, which was supreme. As I got Sullivan when he 
was slipping, so Jeffries got Fitzsimmons; Johnson defeated Jeffries; 
and Dempsey, Willard. And so, too, when Dempsey starts to slip some- 
one is sure to get him. Like the pitcher that goes too often to the well, 
the champ will go once too often to the ring, and be broken in the 
end. And all argument as to their respective merits is foolish and futile. 

After the first uproar had subsided a little, it seemed as if everybody 
in the audience wanted to hug me. Capt. Barrett, Chief of Police, was 
standing near and I said to him:— "Please don't let this crowd get hold 
of me. I want to go up in my room and be with the people I was with 
before the fight started." 

New Leaders at Home and Abroad 371 

Beyond Life 

It is barely possible that at high noon, on February 2, 1918, some of 
the most renowned heroes of antiquity were gathered together in a 
congenial nook, located — one cannot be too sure in such matters — 
perhaps in Elysium, in Paradise, in Valhalla, in Hades, or even maybe 
in Purgatory. For, tiring of the restrictions imposed upon them in the 
various parts of the Unknown to which they happened to be trans- 
ported after death, they had wandered to this private spot in order to 
brag once more about the valiant deeds they had performed in the 
flesh in the brave days of old. Goliath, Polyphemus, Siegfried, Her- 
cules, Beowulf, Fafnir, — these numbered but a few of the vast throng 
of mighty giants on hand; while, aloft on a safe perch, Jack the Giant- 
Killer thumbed his nose most indecorously at the whole gathering. 
The talk, at first friendly, waxed more and more boisterous and 
raucous; vainglorious boasting and sarcastic gabbling steadily in- 
creased; louder and louder grew the rumbling threats and accusations; 
it seemed that a terrible and titanic combat was inevitable. Suddenly 
a low, muttering, awful sound broke on the air; it came nearer, ever 
increasing in volume; the rude talk hushed and the heroic faces grew 
pale. Then, as the enormous portals yawned asunder, those ancient 
heroes turned and fled in precipitate dismay; for through the caver- 
nous opening there rushed a monstrous shade, moving swift as a whirl- 
wind, brandishing a ponderous fist, and hoarsely bellowing these words 
into the palpable obscure: "My name's John L. Sullivan, and I can 
lick any son of a here!" 

Thomas MacDonagh, Poet and Insurrectionary Leader 

In that poem in which "A. E." celebrates the leaders of the Insur- 
rection, the stanza about MacDonagh begins: 

"I listened to much talk from you, 
Thomas MacDonagh . . ." 

From John /,. Sullivan, by R. F. Dibble, pp. 208-209. Copyright, 1925, by Little, 
Brown & Co. Boston. 

From The Road Round Ireland, by Padraic Colum, pp. 471-473. Copyright, 1926, 
by The Macmillan Co. New York. 

372 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

A man of much and ready speech, a poet with a bent towards abstrac- 
tions, a scholar with a leaning towards philology — that is how many 
in Dublin saw Thomas MacDonagh. 

He came to Dublin in 1908. I had known him from the year before; 
then, for six years I knew him intimately. Those who saw him in the 
lecture-room, in his academic robe, and noted his flow of speech and 
his tendency towards abstractions might have carried away an image 
of one of those adventurous students who disputed endlessly in a 
medieval university. Or they might have thought of him as a scholar 
called into a constituent assembly. With his short figure, his scholar's 
brow, and his dominating nose, he looked like a man of the Gironde— 
a party, by the way, that he often spoke of. 

And there was another MacDonagh— a MacDonagh that was a won- 
derfully good comrade, an eager friend, a happy-hearted companion. 
He had an abundance of good spirits and a flow of wit and humour 
remarkable even in a Munster man. He had, too, an intimate knowl- 
edge of the humours of popular life in the country and the country- 
town. We must regret that he put his feeling for this popular and 
humorous life only into one poem quite completely — into "John- 
John." This poem is living; it has completely, not the feeling of the 
countryside— other Irish poets have got that into their poems— but the 
feeling of the village which no other Irish poet has got: 

The fair was just the same as then, 

Five years ago to-day, 

When first you left the thimble-men 

And came with me away. 

For there again were thimble-men 

And shooting galleries, 

And card-trick men and Maggie men 

Of all sorts and degrees, 

But not a sight of you, John-John, 

Was anywhere. 

I turned my face to home again, 

And called myself a fool 

To think you'd leave the thimble-men 

And live again by rule, 

And go to the mass and keep the fast 

And till the little patch: 

My wish to have you home was past 

Before I raised the latch 

New Leaders at Home and Abroad 873 

And pushed the door and saw you, John, 
Sitting down there. 

He was born in Cloughjordan, a little town in Tipperary, where his 
father and mother were teachers in primary schools. He was trained 
by a religious order, and was indeed a religious novice in his early 
youth. Afterwards he became a teacher in Kilkenny. He began to learn 
Irish while he was there; afterwards he went to the Arran Islands and 
to the Irish-speaking districts in Munster, and made himself fluent in 
the language. While he was in Fermoy he made himself one of the 
leading propagandists for the language revival in the southern coun- 
ties. "The Gaelic revival has given some of us a new arrogance," he 
was to write afterwards. "I am a Gael, and I know no cause but of 
pride in that. Gaedheal mi agus ni h-eol dom gur nair dom i." But he 
was no more a pure Gael than was Padraic Pearse. His mother, born 
in Dublin, was of English parentage; her maiden name was Parker; 
his maternal grandfather, if I remember aright what he once told me, 
was a printer connected with Dublin University. His mother became 
a Catholic in her girlhood; she died only a few years before the Insur- 
rection; at the time I knew her, she had the simplicity, the outlook, 
the manner, of a fine type of Irish countrywoman. 

He came to Dublin with a play that he wanted to have produced in 
the Abbey Theatre, then under the brief direction of J. M. Synge. 
The play was When the Dawn Is Come. Its scene was in a revolu- 
tionary Ireland of the future, and it was the tragedy of a leader whose 
master-idea baffled his followers. Seven years afterwards he completed 
a revised version of the play; he was himself then one of the leaders 
in a revolutionary movement. 

... It was in 1911, that Professor Houston, with James Stephens, 
MacDonagh and myself started The Irish Review. MacDonagh was 
associate, first, with the three of us, and, after an interregnum, with his 
friend, Joseph Plunkett. They were the last editors, and the Review 
did not survive them. 

I have said that he got only once or twice into his writing the 
humours and intimacies of popular life, although he could recount 
these as well as any man I ever knew. I might have said, too, that he 
did not get into his writing the gaiety and the good fellowship that 
were his so abundantly. And because these things have not been shown, 
he may be remembered as a man who was always high-minded, ideal- 
istic, and austere. Really he was full of delightful extravagances. Once 
I remember his telling myself and another of a career that he had 
planned for himself: he would go to South America and enlist in an 


374 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

army there; in a South American state with its occasional revolutions, 
military experience and advancement would come to him rapidly; in 
ten years he would be on some General Staff; then he would come 
back to us and organize the country for military resistance. The de- 
lightful extravagance of the project will be understood when it is told 
that it was made, not in the feverish days of Volunteer preparation, 
but in the Arcadian times when we were all concerned with Mr. Red- 
mond's Home Rule Bill, and it was made by a man who was going 
back, to teach a class of boys, and who would be working at a poem 
the next morning; it was made, too, by a man who was ready to fall 
in love with some Dublin girl the day after. 

• • • • • 

In politics, before the days of the Volunteers, he would have wel- 
comed a reasonable settlement— or what would then have been re- 
garded as a reasonable settlement— of Irish political conditions. In- 
deed, two years after its angry rejection by the National Convention he 
said to me that the country should have accepted the Councils Bill, 
with the control it gave of education and the possibility it offered 
of checking up on the financial relations between Great Britain and 
Ireland. I had a vision of my friend in a Home Rule Parliament work- 
ing at social and legislative problems, and perhaps training himself 
to become a Minister of Education. He was, when the Home Rule Bill 
reached its last stages, happily married, and was the father of the child 
addressed in "Wishes for My Son." His second child was born six 
months before the Insurrection. In the end the Home Rule question 
became something different from an adjustment of legislations be- 
tween Ireland and Great Britain. The English Conservative Party 
made its granting or its withdrawal depend upon a question of mili- 
tary preparation and racial manliness. The challenge was accepted, 
and the Nationalists created their Volunteers — that was in the winter 
of 1913. Thomas MacDonagh had a place on the Executive and the 
command of a corps. 

I think he had been in Dublin about three years when he became 
associated with Joseph Plunkett. I remember his telling me that a 
lady had called at the school to ask him to help her son with his 
Irish studies. The student whom MacDonagh then took on was Joseph 
Mary Plunkett. The association had an influence upon both of the 
men. MacDonagh brought Plunkett's poems to us on the Irish Review, 
recommending them strongly. Plunkett became MacDonagh's admirer 
and friend; he also became an influence upon him. Joseph Mary 
Plunkett was a young man then; he was often ill — indeed he looked a 


New Leaders at Home and Abroad 375 

youth who could do little more than be a reader and an onlooker. 
Yet he was working hard at verse and had taken up many out-of-the 
way studies. MacDonagh's great enthusiasm, his adventurousness of 
mind, his unquenchable desire to be making and shaping things, must 
have been vital influences upon the younger, frailer man. And on the 
other hand, the authentic mystical vision that Plunkett had, the con- 
quest of the fear of death that his illness had often caused him to 
make, probably influenced MacDonagh to the consideration of dan- 
gerous courses.* Again I will say that what was fundamental in Mac- 
Donagh rarely went into what he wrote. That fundamental thing was 
an eager search for something that would have his whole devotion. 
His dream was always of action — of a man dominating a crowd for a 
great end. The historical figures that appealed straight to him were the 
Gracchi and the Irish military leader of the seventeenth century, Owen 
See O'Neill. In the lives of these three was the drama that appealed 
to him — the thoughtful man become a military leader; the prepara- 
tion of the crowd; the fierce conflict and the catastrophe. Many things 
that Thomas MacDonagh said and wrote were prophetic. . . . 

"The Gaelic revival has given some of us a new arrogance," he wrote. 
It was not altogether the Gaelic revival that had done this: it was the 
Gaelic revival plus the military movement that began with the forma- 
tion of the Volunteers. Neither the Gaelic movement alone nor the 
Volunteer movement alone could have created the racial pride, could 
have brought about the challenge to a power that seemed securely 
entrenched in Ireland. It took both together to make the temper that 
was behind such a challenge. "These wars and their sequel may turn 
literature definitely into ways towards which I looked, confirming the 
promise of our high destiny here." I have said that some years before 
the Volunteers were formed, Thomas MacDonagh, speaking for his 

• An account of how Joseph Plunkett, a frail and ailing youih, made himself 
over imo a poei, a scholar, and a man of action, would be of extraordinary interest. 
Some of his poems have in lhem an exaltation which sets them apart from Irish 
poetry written in his generation. It must have been soon after his association with 
MacDonagh that he began to make the plans for a Dublin insurrection — plans 
which in 1915 were adoped by a military council "practically in their entirety." In 
the Autumn of 1915 I met him in New York: he had come to the United States 
from Continental Europe where, having made his way through Italy into Germany, 
he had had an interview with some of the German General Staff. He left some 
books in my charge to be given to different people; they showed how diverse his 
interests were: one was Edward Lear's "Nonsense Verses," the other was an abstruse 
work on philology — Manual of Linguistics, by John Clark. 

376 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

everyday self, would have accepted an everyday settlement of the prob- 
lems of Irish self-government. But his play When the Dawn Is Come 
and some of his poems show that there was always something fatalistic 
and prophetic about his vision of his own relation to the cause of 
Irish independence. This leader has to face a hostile tribunal. Six 
years after the play was produced MacDonagh, a military prisoner, 
faced such a tribunal. His actual speech before the British court- 
martial not only reproduced the thought, it reproduced the peculiar 
rhythms of the sentences in that play. 

"This rising did not result from accidental circumstances. It came in 
due recurrent season as the necessary outcome of forces that are ever 
at work. The fierce pulsation of a resurgent pride may one day cease 
to throb in the heart of Ireland— but the heart of Ireland will that 
day be dead. ... It will be said that our movement was doomed to 
failure. It has proved so. Yet it might have been otherwise. There is 
always a chance of success for brave men who challenge fortune." 

He commanded the Volunteer force that occupied Jacob's factory, 
and he held his position from Monday until the following Sunday! 
He received from Pearse the order to surrender. "When he received 
the message he sat considering," said an eye-witness. "He said, *I am 
thinking of my men and their position.' After a while he said, 'Well, 
we had better give in, there is no chance.' " 

The narrator said that he went to his men and put the situation 
before them; they consented to surrender. He then went with some 
British officers to the South Dublin Union where Eamon Ceantt was 
in command, and he asked Ceantt to give in, and Ceantt consented. 
He next went to the malt house of Guinness's Brewery, and asked the 
Volunteer officer there to surrender. This officer, too, surrendered on 
MacDonagh's advice. 

The military gave a quarter of an hour to his court-martial. He was 
called upon at midnight in Richmond Barrack and was told that he 
would be shot at dawn. He sent for his sister, who was a nun, and for 
a confessor. His wife was not able to reach him. His sister was lighted 
to his cell by the butt end of a candle. He confessed, made his act for 
Holy Communion aloud, and his thanksgiving aloud, and then sat 
down and wrote to his wife. When he had finished the letter he went to 
pray before the crucifix. His sister, when she came in, found that he 
had had nothing to eat or drink; there was no water for him to wash 
and the sentry remained standing by them in the small cell She 
turned to the sentry and said, "Will you give him some water to wash 
in?" The sentry said, "No." 

His sister gave him their mother's rosary, and he put it around his 

New Leaders at Home and Abroad 377 

neck. "I hope they will give me this when it is all over," she said. "Ah, 
no," he said quietly, "they will shoot it to bits." "But they didn't," 
said the narrator, "they shot four beads out of it, and his sister has 
the rosary now. When the time came he went quietly along the corri- 
dor to his death." 

In the old heroic story Fionn is asked what music he preferred. He 
spoke of the song of the blackbird, the screaming of the eagle, the bay 
of the hounds, the deep sound of the waterfall. But the music that he 
preferred to all these was "the music of the thing that happens." Mac- 
Donagh could have made Fionn's lofty answer. He surely loved "the 
music of the thing that happens." He followed the music that meant 
the language revival, the music that meant the Volunteer movement, 
the music that meant insurrection and the violent breaking into a 
new order. And he stood up, too, to the music that was the militarist's 
answer to the proclamation he had signed. 

Collins' Last Days 

It was Friday before the Four Courts garrison surrendered. In the 
meantime Lynch, who had issued in Dublin a fiery proclamation call- 
ing Republicans to arms, retired to Cork "to rouse the country." He 
roused the country, but, instead of rushing to the relief of the Four 
Courts and the other buildings in which his men were besieged, he 
went off to Limerick. There, having engaged the garrison, he offered in 
the usual fashion to negotiate a truce. In the usual way it was agreed 
to. But Collins, having once set his face to the hard road, was having 
no more truces. The priest was told to clear out and the Republicans 
ordered to evacuate the town, which they did. It showed the temper of 
their resistance. 

After a week of fighting they surrendered in Dublin. In the blazing 
wreck of the Hamman Burgess fought on like a lion. He had already 
nerved himself for the last ordeal. He had never retreated from the 
English; he would not retreat from his own countrymen. There is 
something about his end which recalls the old sagas. One thinks of 
Cuchulainn tying himself to a pillarstone by his belt and facing his 
enemies till the battle glory faded from his head and the bird of evil 

From Death in Dublin, Michael Collins and the Irish Revolution, by Frank 
O'Connor, pp. 261-268. Copyright. 1937, by Doubleday, Doran & Co., Inc. Garden 
City. New York. 

378 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

omen perched upon the bowed shoulder. He ordered his men to sur- 
render. Alone in the blazing building, he made his choice to die by 
gunfire. Miss Macardle describes how his men, standing with their 
guards in a little lane beside the hotel, anxiously asked one another 
what had become of him. "Suddenly they saw him in the doorway, a 
small, smoke-blackened figure, a revolver in each hand raised against 
the levelled rifles of the troops. Enemies and friends cried out, 'Sur- 
render.' But, shouting 'No!' Burgess darted forward, firing, and fell 
amid a volley of shots." 

When Collins heard the news he wept. 

Soon enough he had cause to weep for another death, that of one 
dearer to his heart. Trapped in his hotel in Skerries, Boland, always 
prepared to take a desperate chance, bolted down the corridor from 
his guards. A sentry raised his rifle, and he fell, shot through the 
abdomen. When he died Collins came into Fionan Lynch's room cry- 
ing helplessly. It seemed as though there would be no end to the 
slaughter of old friends. 

Collins took on his new job as commander in chief with the usual 
intensity, even if there was little joy in his work. It was not the old 
army which had beaten the Black and Tans: hasty recruiting had 
made it in part a haphazard collection of wasters, ex-British soldiers, 
people with whom he had nothing in common. They performed the 
most extraordinary operations. Within a fortnight five hundred of 
them had surrendered their posts and arms and were packed back to 
Dublin. There was a general feeling af apathy and hopelessness. The 
exchange of courtesies between old comrades went on; men changed 
sides from day to day. Against this Collins warred. Devlin describes 
calling on him at an early hour at Portobello and seeing him wave a 
hopeless hand at the deserted barrack square. "Not a soul up yet." 

When Dublin had surrendered, Kerry was the next point of attack. 
Some of his old comrades pressed Collins to try and secure peace now, 
before more blood was spilt and fresh passions engendered. "Let us 
take Cork first," he said. He merely wanted overt evidence of victory 
before opening negotiations. Cork was taken, and with it the position 
of the Provisional Government was made secure. Collins set out to 
inspect the occupied posts. He was in Limerick when he heard of 
Griffith's death. He had been washing his face in the morning when he 
collapsed, a blood vessel broken in his brain. In fear for the future 
of his country, he had been going to pieces. He died a peculiarly 
lonely unknown man, as poor as the first day he entered Irish politics. 

While he walked in Griffith's funeral Collins knew the evening 
hours were spelling the last hours on earth ot Reggie Dunn and Sul- 

New Leaders at Home and Abroad 379 

livan. They cannot have been far from his mind that day. In Wands- 
worth Prison they were awaiting the hangman and a death of infamy, 
while Collins walked, with his staff behind, as head of the Irish govern- 
ment and the Irish army. He had never looked finer. A murmur of 
delight rose from the crowds as he passed. At the same time Dunn, 
who by one word of disloyalty might have saved himself, was enduring 
the last utter humiliation. For each it was apotheosis: foi Collins the 
crowds and the adoration, for Dunn the condemned cell and the 
shame. On the morning of the sixteenth of August he and Sullivan 
were hanged. Collins had still a week to live. 

He lived it in suffering, mental and physical. Though still full of ideas 
and enthusiasm, he found it hard to work. He sat at his desk, scribbled 
a few lines, then rose and left the room, not in the old dashing way 
but slowly and in dejection. The shadow had begun to fall. To Cos- 
grave he said, "Do you think I shall live through this? Not likely!" 
He turned to a typist and asked, "How would you like a new boss?" 
It was so strange, coming from him that she repeated it to O'Reilly, 
who worried over it, turning the words about in his mind. Next day, 
as the two of them were driving into town together, O'Reilly asked 
after his health. "Rotten," replied Collins. There was a slight pause. 
"How would you like a new boss?" came the question. O'Reilly's heart 
sank. He replied that he would never work for anyone else. Collins 
smiled, a queer half-smile, but O'Reilly saw he was gratified. Though 
he still bawled down solicitude, he was obviously grateful for it. 

He promised to see the peace envoys on his return from Cork. His 
staff was under the impression that in his native country he hoped 
to meet some old friends now in arms against him and add their in- 
fluence to the cause of peace. That was also the impression he left on 
Thornton, whom he sent to prepare Clonmel for a conference by with- 
drawing all but old Volunteers from its garrison. Thornton was am- 
bushed and shot down on the way. 

On the night before his departure for Cork he went to bed at 7:30. 
He was suffering from a bad chill. O'Reilly and his batman stuped his 
stomach. O'Reilly then went for oranges and made a drink for him. 
"God, that's grandl" he sighed. Encouraged by these, the first words 
of gratitude which had passed between them, O'Reilly went so far as to 
tuck him in for the night. But this was too much. Gathering all his 
strength, Collins bawled, "Go to hell and leave me alonel" 

Next morning at breakfast he was still very ill — "writhing with 
pain," Mulcahy describes him — but absolute in his determination to 
get to Cork. He roused a friend to say good-bye and joined him in a 
farewell drink. 

380 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

"You're a fool to go," said the other. 

"Ah, whatever happens to me, my own fellow countrymen won't 
kill me," said Collins moodily. 

O'Reilly woke at six and, moved by some impulse, rushed to the 
window. Collins was standing outside on the steps waiting for the 
armoured car to arrive. He wore a small green kitbag over his back, 
his head was bent in gloomy meditation, and O'Reilly thought he 
had never seen so tragically dejected a Collins as this man who, think- 
ing himself unobserved, let himself fall slack in the loneliness and 
silence of the summer morning. 

The instinct of devotion was strong in O'Reilly. He pulled on his 
trousers and, indifferent to rebuffs, dashed down stairs to say good-bye, 
but the car was already gone. 

Ill and distraught as he was, Collins went on to Limerick and from 
there to Cork. On Monday he saw friends and people with whom he 
had business. In the evening there arrived an old friend of Frongoch 
days. Collins sprang to his feet, delighted, and had the room cleared. 
He pretended to believe that his friend had come to ask for a com- 
mission in the army. But the friend did not agree with either side. He 
thought they were all mad. 

Collins fell serious at once. They argued, pulling the threadbare 
theme to and fro again. Collins' love for men was so much greater than 
his love for ideas that it did not weary him as it would another. His 
friend pleaded earnestly for agreement, any sort of agreement that 
would save the nation. 

"Very well," said Collins. "See me tomorrow night. I may have news 
for you." ; 

His friend interpreted this as a hope that he might be in a position 
to negotiate with some of the Republican leaders next day, or at least 
was in touch with someone who might. Then he noticed the old mis- 
chievous gleam in Collins' eye. 

"And now," said the commander in chief, "what about a wrestle?" 

He pulled off his tunic with lightning glee. 

"I will not," said the other, scandalized. "What would the sentries 
do if they saw me wrestling with you?" 

"They'll do nothing at all," said Collins. In a moment the comman- 
der in chief and his friend were rolling on the floor. 

Next morning, as he stood in the lounge of the Imperial Hotel chat- 
ting with Dalton, the hero of the Mountjoy attempt, he saw another 
old friend, Pat MacCrea, his driver, pass through the hall. MacCrea 
had been ambushed and wounded in Wicklow. 

"Ah, Pat," he said, "your fellow countrymen nearly did for you." 

New Leaders at Home and Abroad 381 

It is the same theme repeated in various forms. The shadow of the 
end is on him, yet he cannot believe it will reach him here in his be- 
loved Cork, among the familiar houses and fields, where nature itself 
should rise and shelter him. 

He set out with a party under Dalton. They passed through Mac- 
room, Bandon, Clonakilty, Rosscarbery, Skibbereen, and Sam's Cross, 
where years before he had recited "The Lisht" for his neighbours. 
They crowded in again to shake his hand as Head of the Irish govern- 

It was evening before they struck the back road from Bandon to 
Macroom. An ambush party had been waiting there since morning. 
Now, with the failing light, they scattered to their billets, and as 
Collins' convoy tore up the narrow road through the glen there were 
only a handful of men to dispute the way with it. They opened fire. 
Dalton shouted to the driver to go like hell. Collins countermanded 
the order. The cars screamed to a halt, and he leaped out with his 
rifle in his hand. For close on half an hour the fight went on; Collins 
continued to fire until the little group of ambushers took to flight. He 
followed them with his rifle. All at once Dalton and the others noticed 
that he had ceased to fire. They thought they heard him call. When 
they rushed to where he was lying they found him, his head resting on 
his arms, a great wound in his skull. Afterwards they thought it might 
have been one of the old gestures, that lightning turn of the head, 
which brought the wound where it was. 

O'Connell whispered the Act of Contrition into his ear and dragged 
him across the road into shelter while Dalton continued to fight. 
Dalton then came and bandaged the wound. He had scarcely com- 
pleted the task when he saw that Collins was dead. Darkness was 
coming on. O'Connell was weeping. Dalton still supported the heavy 
bleeding head upon his knee. 

The glen was quiet again, only the wind stirred in the bushes. Over 
all a wild and lovely county night fell; the men came in from the 
fields, gathered about the fire where soon they would say the rosary; 
clearer in the darkness sounded the wheels of the little country cart 
thumping over a ledge of stone, a cart such as Collins had seen and 
thrilled at in the Shepherd's Bush Road. But he would hear it no 
longer. The countryside he had seen in dreams, the people he had 
loved, the tradition which had been his inspiration — they had risen 
in the falling light and struck him dead. 

38 2 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

The Chieftain: Michael Collins 

A woman said, "He would sit there, 
Listening to songs, my mother's sheaf. 
And he would charm her to regain 
Songs out of note for fifty years, 
(Did he remember the old songs?) 
For he was of the mould of men 
Who had renown in her young days, 
The champions of cross-roads and field." 

(His head was like the head upon 
A coin when coins were minted well, 
An athlete passing from the games 
To take his place in citadel.) 

"But once I saw a sadness come 
Upon his face, and that was strange— 
The song she sang had less of fret 
Than all the rest-a Milking Song 
(Did he remember the old songs?) 
A girl's lilt as she drew streams 

Into her pail at evening fall. /« 

But you would think some great defeat 
Was in his mind as she sang on." 

(Some man whom Plutarch tells about 
Heard in the cadence of a song 
The breaking of a thread, and knew 
The hold he had was not for long.) 

"Only that once. All other times 
He was at ease. The open door 
Might show no danger lay across 
That young man's path as he sat there, 
Listening to songs of the old time 

By the editor. 

i i 


New Leaders at Home and Abroad 383 

When songs were secret in their hope. 
(Did he remember the old songs?)" 

(A strategist, he left behind 
Pursuit each day and thwarted death 
To plan campaign would leave no name 
To field nor to a shrine a wreath.) 


But she had seen upon his face 
Something that clanger could not cause 
Nor could she guess: the fateful glimpse 
On instant opened to the man 
Summoned by history. He will know 
While someone outside lilts the words 
That have no fret, that he must choose 
Between what forceful men will name 
Desertion, but that he'll conceive 
As action to bring fruitful peace 
And see (it could be) rifle raised 
Against deserter who had led. 


* (Who breaks into a history breaks 

) Into an ambush frenzy-set, 

Where comrades turn to foes, and they 
The clasp of comradeship forget.) 

'Did he remember the old songs? 
She asks where requiem leads us on 
By quays, through streets, to burial-ground. 
I answer from my searching mind, 
His powers made him prodigy, 
But old devotions kept him close 
To what was ours; he'd not forget 
Threshold and hearthstone and old songs. 
The requiem made for divers men 
Is history; his music was 
The thing that happened, as said Finn." 
"No one is left on Ireland's ground 

384 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

To hear that music," she intoned, 
"Since Michael Collins walks no more." 

(The citadel he entered in 
Without procession or acclaim, 
And brought a history to an end, 
Setting his name gainst Norman name.) 

John McCormack 

My first meeting with John McCormack was at the house of Lady 
Ravensdale. I had gone there to play for a violinist whom Lady 
Ravensdale, always ready to encourage youthful musicians, was anxi- 
ous to hear. John McCormack was present. Though I had never met 
him before there was no mistaking him. The thousand pictures I had 
seen of him with his black hair, twinkling eyes, fine head, all came to 
life in that imposing personality whose presence filled the room. With 
eagerness not unmixed with trepidation I moved over to the great man 
to shake his hand. I remembered feeling very small when I first met the 
great Chaliapin, humble when first I met Paderewski— what sort of a 
reception would John McCormack give me? This is what happened: 
he clapped me on the back and said "Let me turn over the music for 
you, Gerald." And that was that! Whenever I met McCormack after 
that, there was always friendliness, that calling me by my Christian 
name (it was as much as to say "I know all about you, my boy, and 
your work") which brought unction to the soul of a young musician. 

It was not until 1938 that I accompanied John (his old partner, 
Edwin Schneider not feeling well enough to make the journey to 
Europe). This, sadly enough, was on his farewell tour of England. I 
went to the Dorchester Hotel to rehearse with him and after five 
minutes he said "What the devil do we want to rehearse for?" and this 
proved to be the nearest approach to a formal rehearsal we ever had. 

He was in wonderful form vocally; his singing once again roused the 
stern music critics, always quick to detect a flaw, into superlative flights 
of praise. Ernest Newman wrote that when John sang All me in 
gedanken the audience should have stood up and sung it to John 
to express what they and music lovers the world over owed to this 

By Gerald Moore, in The Capuchin Annual, 1946-1947. pp. 237-239. Dublin. 

New Leaders at Home and Abroad 385 

man for the pleasure and inspiration his singing had given. And the 
public? London, Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham, Glasgow, Edin- 
burgh, etc., all flocked to hear once again their beloved singer. It was 
a triumphant procession. ... It was in his hotel that his friends and 
admirers would gather; there I have met great conductors, singers, 
violinists, pianists (I put musicians first, as they are most important); 
then there were ambassadors, statesmen, writers, actors and actresses, 
tennis players, etc., etc. To each person John would talk about their 
own work, to the politician politics, to the sportsman sport. 

On the day of a concert, McCormack was unapproachable. He would 
not see anybody except his own immediate circle. Countess McCormack 
would see that he had all his newspapers around him and his books. 
He conversed in whispers (an iron restraint on John McCormack's 
part, for he was a vehement and explosive conversationalist). I tapped 
at this door when the car came to take us to the concert, he would 
drink a cup of black coffee and off we would go — with me doing most 
of the talking to monosyllabic replies from John. Arrived at the hall, 
he would go through a crowd of autograph hunters at the artists' room 
door like a knife through butter — he refused to stand out in the cold 
and damp signing autographs just before he was due to sing — the books 
could be sent in to him and he would sign them in his room. 

John did not love rehearsing, as I have indicated earlier; I remem- 
ber that the day before his last Albert Hall concert he had made an 
.appointment to run through Cesar Franck's Panis Angelicus at the 
hall with the cellist and organist — who were playing the obligati. 
"Why should I be going down to sing my heart out in a cold hall the 
day before my farewell? Sure, you go down, Gerald, you know how I 
sing it, you know my tempo, you know my little ways — you sing it 
through." And then he added with a wicked look in his eye, "Sure, I 
think I'll come with you for the peculiar experience it will be to hear 
you sing." Incidentally, that was a new sensation for me, to sing in the 
Royal Albert Hall. I stood near the organist but had to sing sufficiently 
loud for the cellist — sitting a long way off — to hear me. These two 
were my entire audience in that vast hall with the exception of a lady 
who, with a man's cap on her head, was doing some cleaning in one 
of the upper boxes. 

This farewell tour, however, was not to be his last. Unlike many 
famous singers of the past, one would not ask McCormack, "How many 
farewell tours are you going to make?" As long as he was in good form 
he would have continued to make records, might be induced to make 
an occasional broadcast — but he would not reappear on the concert 
platform. Suffering humanity, however, brought him from his retire- 

386 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

ment. During the grimmest of the war years, 1941-42, he undertook 
a strenuous tour in aid of the Red Cross, in the course of which, and in 
his anxiety to swell his contribution, he gave concerts in smaller towns 
than any he had ever visited since he had become celebrated. We in 
England will always think of him with added affection for that. 

Of course the man in the street went in his millions to hear him sing 
/ hear you calling me, Mother Machree and The Rose of Tralee, and 
John would have been a very hardhearted man if he had not catered 
for this overwhelming demand. Yet, in none of his programmes did 
he ever neglect to give the more serious music lover a treat; there 
would be something from the old Italian classics, Amarilli mia bella, 
O del mio dolce ardor; from Handel, O sleep why dost thou leave me?, 
Wheree'er you walk; Schubert's Ave Maria; Wolf's Herr, was tragt der 
Boden hier. The two latter songs, deeply spiritual, touched the heart 
of John and he would imbue them with all the fervour of his religion. 
To the children by Rachmaninoff is another song which meant much 
to John, and through John, his listeners. Occupying the inmost re- 
cesses of John's heart as these songs may have done, it must not be 
thought that he could ever sing the tritest ballad with any suspicion 
of insincerity or carelessness. Indeed the secret of his hold on the vast 
public was his sincerity. If he could not sing a song with conviction 
he would throw it away. Every song had to have some special message 
for John. When I have sung my songs to you I'll sing no more may 
not be a great song— I will even go so far as to say that with any other 
singer it could sound banal, but when John sang it, a lump came into 
your throat, because you realized at once even if you were sitting at 
the back of the gallery— that the song meant so much to John person- 
ally. I know for a fact that whenever he sang this song he was thinking 
of his wife, Lily; he was paying homage to his lifelong companion, 
adviser and comforter. 

This great minstrel will never be forgotten. He is enshrined in the 
hearts of the people, for his singing lifted them up and showed them 
beauty and romance. 

Part VI 

The Commodities of Aqua Vilae * 

The soile of Ireland is very low and waterish. including diverse little is- 
lands, invironed with lakes and marrish. Highest hills have standing poolCS 
in their tops. Inhabitants, especially new come, are subject to distillations, 
rheumes and fleures. For remedie whereof, they use an ordinarie drinke of 
Aqua Vitae, being so qualified in the making, that it drieth more and also 
inflameth lesse than other hot confections doo. 

One Thcoricus wrote a proper treatise of Aqua Vitae wherein he praiseth 
it unto the ninth degree. He distinguished! three sorts thereof, simplex, 
composita and perfectissima. He declarcth the simples and ingredients 
thereto belonging. He wisheth it to be taken as well before meat as after. 
It drieth up the breaking out of hands, and killeth the flesh wormes, if you 
wash your hands therewith. It scowroth all scurfe and scalds from the head, 
being therewish dailie washt before meales. 

Being moderatlie taken, saith he, it sloweth age, it strengthneth youth, it 
helpeth digestion, it cutteth flegme, it abandoned* melancholic it relisheth 
the heart, it lighteneth the mind, it quickeneth the spirits, it cureth the 
hydropsie, it hcaleth the strangurie, it pounceth the stone, it expelleth 
graucll, it puffeth away all ventositie, it keepeth and preserueth the head 
from whirling, the eies from dazeling, the toong from lisping, the mouth 
from maffling, the teeth from chattering, and the throte from ratling; it 
keepeth the weasan from stifling, the stomach from wambling, and the 
heart from swelling, the bellie from winching, the guts from rumbling, the 
hands from shivering and the sinewes from shrinking, the veines from 
crumpling, the bones from aking and the marrow from soaking. 

Vistadius also ascribeth thereto a singular praise, and would have it to 
burne being kindled, which he taketh to be a token to know the goodness 

And trulie it is a sovereigne liquor, if it be orderlie taken. 

From "The Commodities of Aqua Vitae," a pamphlet written by an Anglo-Irish 
writer of the sixteenth century, Richard Stanihurst. The Dolmen Press. Dublin. 

* Thr Iri«h llita* hntUn /tnmximM urliun ...-.*%. »«*«»_.._.. — r w *f^ •» 


The Harp 

The harp is a genuine Irish emblem. Represented on the coins of 
our own day, displayed on the green flag that preceeded the present- 
day tricolor, it has a place in the oldest strata of Irish tradition where 
it is given a cosmic significance. Owned by the Dagda, the senior 
among the Divine Folk, the Tuatha de Danaan, it is taken from him by 
the powers of cold and darkness, the Fomorians, with whom the De 
Danaan are at war. Two divinities, Lugh representing Light and Ogma 
representing Art, penetrate the Fomorian fastness, recover the harp 
and restore it to the Dagda. When they come into the fastness— "There 
hung the harp on the wall. That is the harp in which the Dagda had 
bound the melodies so that they sounded not until his call summoned 
them forth. The young gods pronounced the harp's two secret names 
and at the same time called, 'Come, Summer! Come, Winter.' Having 
regained it, the Dagda played the harp to the Divine Folk — a wail 
strain, so that their tearful women wept. He played a smile strain to 
them, so that their women and children laughed. He played a sleep 
strain to them, and the company all fell asleep."* The harp with its 
secret or magical names is the purveyor of Sorrow, Gladness and 

The harp was not only the principal musical instrument of the 
Irish — it was their unique instrument; they concentrated all their 
musical ability on the playing of it and the composition of melodies 
for it. Geraldus Cambrensis, the publicity man for the Norman in- 
vaders (he came into Ireland when Europe was preparing for the 
crusade against Saladin) placed the Irish far above the harpers of 
Wales, England, and France; compared with the accomplishment of 
the Irish, they were only at the beginning of their art. (But the profes- 
sionalism of the harpers, like the professionalism of the fili, prevented 
any widening; musical scholars say that the exclusive devotion to the 
harp and to melodies composed for the harp halted the development 
of Irish music.) 

The harpers lost the audience of the castle with the emigration of 
the leading families in the seventeenth and early eighteenth century. 
Their prestige declined (a factor in the decline was the coming in 
of Italian music) although new families of English descent were hos- 

By the editor. 

• The Second Battle of Mag lured (Moytura), translated by Whitley Stokes. 


390 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

pitable to such harpers as O'Carolan and O'Neill. It was a North of 
Ireland man, Dr. Michael MacDonnell, and an Englishman, Edward 
Bunting, who assembled the last harpers in Belfast in 1792. The harpers 
who attended were an impoverished and vagrant remnant. "There 
were eight men and one woman," writes a lively young lady whose 
letter is quoted by Mrs. Milligan Fox in her Annals of the Irish 
Harpers, "all either blind or lame, and all old but two men. Figure 
to yourself this group, indifferently dressed, sitting on a stage erected 
for them in one end of the Exchange Ballroom, and the ladies and 
gentlemen of the first fashion in Belfast and its vicinity looking on and 
listening attentively, and you will have some idea of how they looked. 
. . . The best performers got ten guineas, and the worst two and the 
rest accordingly." Some of the most distinctive of Irish melodies were 
in the repertoire of these harpers; they were recorded by Edward 
Bunting and so preserved. Outstanding amongst them was one Denis 
Hempson. "He played," it is recorded, "with long crooked nails, and 
in this performance the tinkling of the small wires under the deep 
tones of the bass were peculiarly thrilling. He was the only one who 
played the very old, the absolute music of the country, and he did it in 
a style of such finished excellence as persuaded the editor that the 
praises of the old Irish harp in Cambrensis, Fuller, and others, in- 
stead of being ill-considered and indiscriminate were no more than a 
just tribute to that admirable instrument and its then professors."* 
Hempson should have been retained to teach and so perpetuate his 
long cultivated art, but he was given his ten guineas and allowed to 
wander off. And so through a heedlessness unthinkable in any other 
European country, a noble accomplishment was permitted to dis- 

The last of them must have been long out of sight when the song 
that gives the popular presentation of the harper was made up: 

Bold Phelim Brady, the Bard of Armagh 

Oh, list to the lay of a poor Irish harper, 

And scorn not the strains of his old withered hand, 

But remember those fingers they could once move sharper 

To raise the merry strains of his dear native land; 

It was long before the Shamrock, our green isle's loved emblem, 

Was crushed in its beauty 'neath the Saxon lion's paw, 

I was called by the colleens of the village and valley 

Bold Phelim Brady, the Bard of Armagh. 

• Quoted by Mrs. Milligan Fox in Annals of the Irish Harpers. 

Ways and Traditions S91 

How I long for to muse on the days of my boyhood, 
Though four score and three years have flitted since then, 
Still it gives sweet reflections, as every young joy should, 
That merry-hearted boys make the best of old men. 
At pattern or fair I could twist my shillelagh, 
Or trip through a jig with my brogues bound with straw, 
Whilst all the pretty maidens around me assembled 
Loved bold Phelim Brady, the Bard of Armagh. 

Although I have travelled this wide world over, 

Yet Erin's a home and a parent to me, 

Then, Oh, let the ground that my old bones shall cover 

Be cut from the soil that is trod by the free. 

And when Sergeant Death in his cold arms shall embrace me, 

Oh, lull me to sleep with sweet Erin go Bragh; 

By the side of my Kathleen, my young wife. O place me. 

Then forget Phelim Brady, the Bard of Armagh. 

Set to a fine old air, "The Bard of Armagh" is popular on the 
street and on the concert platform. But the picture it calls up is 
altogether wrong. A harper would know that he was the custodian of 
an aristocratic art and would never remind an audience that he was 
once a boy of the countryside. His kind of patriotic sentiment belongs 
to the Anglo-Irish and not to the Gaelic tradition. And the harper 
would never have confounded his role with that of the bard; they two 
were as distinct as a conservative society, rigidly adhering to profes- 
sionalism, could keep them. The picture of the bearded bard harping 
to his own lays a I'Ossian is out. Says the authority on Irish music, 
Donal O'Sullivan, "The music on which Cambrensis bestowed his 
encomiums was harp music, played before the heads of the noble 
houses and their families as an accompaniment to the recital (or chant- 
ing) of the bardic poetry composed in their honor. The poetry was 
written down and preserved in poem-books called duanairi; but the 
same was not done with the melodies. Indeed, it is hard to imagine the 
kind of music to which the bardic poems could be chanted, and this 
highly stylized verse in complex, classical metres has no correspondence 
with any of the Irish tunes that have come down to us. There is 
nothing unhistorical about 

The harp that once through Tara's halls 
The soul of music shed 

392 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

Only we do not know what the music was like.''* 

The Harp That Once Through Tara's Halls 

The harp that once through Tara's halls 

The soul of music shed, 

Now hangs as mute on Tara's walls 

As if that soul were fled. 

So sleeps the pride of former days, 

So glory's thrill is o'er. 

And hearts that once beat high for praise, 

Now feel that pulse no more. 

No more to chiefs and ladies bright 

The harp of Tara swells; 

The chord alone that breaks the night, 

A tale of ruin tells. 

This Freedom now so seldom wakes, 

The only throb she gives 

Is when some heart indignant breaks 

To show that still she lives. 

The Shamrock 

The worst verse in the world has been written about the Shamrock. 
I open Thomas Crofton Croker's Popular Songs of Ireland and find 
this as the first of three stanzas: 

There 's a dear little plant that grows in our isle, 

'Twas Saint Patrick himself, sure, that set it; 

And the sun of his labor with pleasure did smile, 

And with dew from his eye often wet it. 

It thrives through the bog, through the brake, through the mireland; 

And he called it the dear little Shamrock of Ireland. 

The sweet little Shamrock, the dear little Shamrock, 
The sweet little, green little, Shamrock of Ireland. 

• In The Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland. 1949. 

By the editor. 

Ways and Traditions 395 

It was first sung by a lady with the appealing name of Mrs. Mountain 
at the Opera House in Capel Street. 

As if the above were not bad enough, we are also given the following 
in the same collection: 

This plant that blooms for ever, 

With the Rose combined, 

And the Thistle twined, 
Defy the strength of foes to sever. 
Firm be the triple league they form, 

Despite all change of weather; 
In sunshine, darkness, calm or storm 

Still may they fondly grow together. 

Thomas Moore did a little better when he celebrated the Shamrock as 

A type that blends 
Three godlike friends, 
Love, Valour, Wit, for ever. 

But besides being the begetter of bad verse, the Shamrock has also 
been the begetter of much argument. Crofton Croker quotes from a 
communication to the Dublin Penny Journal in which this is said: 
"Other countries may boast of their trefoil as well as we, but no- 
where on the broad earth, on continent or in isle, is there such an 
abundance of this succulent material for making fat mutton. In 
winter as well as in summer, it is found to spread its green carpet over 
our limestone hills, drawing its verdure from the mists that sweep 
from the Atlantic. The seed of it is everywhere. Vast lime or limestone 
gravel on the top of a mountain, or on the centre of a bog, and up 
springs the Shamrock. St. Patrick, when he drove all living things 
that had venom (save only man) from the top of Croagh Patrick, had 
his foot planted on a shamrock; and if the readers of your journal 
will go on a pilgrimage to that most beautiful of Irish hills, they 
will see the Shamrock still flourishing there, and expanding its fragrant 
honeysuckles to the western wind. I confess I have no patience with 
that impudent Englishman, who wants to make us believe that our 
darling plant, associated as it is with our religious and convivial 
partialities, was not the favorite of St. Patrick, and who would sub- 
stitute in the place of that badge of our faith and our nationality, a 
little, sour, puny plant of wood-sorrel! This is actually attempted to 
be done by that stiff, sturdy Saxon, Mr. Bicheno. . . . The proof the 

394 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

Englishman adduces is the testimony of one Spenser, another Saxon. 
. . . But, to do Mr. Bicheno justice, he has another argument in favor 
of the wood-sorrel, which is far more to an Irishman's mind. He says 
that wood-sorrel, when steeped in punch, makes a better substitute for 
lemon than trefoil. This has something very specious in it. if anything 
would do, this would; but let the Saxon do his best. Even on his own 
ground— even in London — he would find it very hard to convince our 
countrymen, settled in St. Giles's, that the Oxalis acetosella, the sour, 
puny, crabbed wood-sorrel, is the proper emblem for Ireland." 

The Shamrock (Shamrog) then is not the wood-sorrel. It is a trefoil, 
a clover that grows nowhere else but in Ireland; it is really a pretty 
plant, growing in bunches and often with a dark stain on its green. 
It was used as an emblem by the respectable Volunteers of 1777, and 
subsequently as an emblem made challenging by more forward parties. 
So rebellious did the wearing of the Shamrock come to seem, that in 
Queen Victoria's time Irish regiments were forbidden to display it. 
And this really made the Shamrock an Irish emblem, for it now spread 
through the most defiant of Nationalist ballads: 

The Wearin' of the Green 

Oh, Paddy dearl and did ye hear the news that's goin' round? 
The Shamrock is forbid by law to grow on Irish groundl 
No more St. Patrick's day we'll keep; his color can't be seen, 
For there's a cruel law agin' the Wearing o* the Greenl 

I met with Napper Tandy, and he took me by the hand, 

And he said 'How's poor ould Ireland, and how does she stand?' 

'She 's the most distressful country that ever yet was seen, 

For they're hangin' men and women for the Wearin' o' the Green.' 

An' if the color we must wear is England's cruel red, 

Let it remind us of the blood that Ireland has shed; 

Then pull the Shamrock from your hat, and throw it on the sod, 

An* never fear, 'twill take root there, though under foot 'tis trod. 

When law can stop the blades of grass from growin' as they grow, 
An' when the leaves in summer time their color dare not show, 
Then I will change the color, too, I wear in my caubeen; 
But till that day, plaise God, I'll stick to the Wearin' o' the Green. 

The Shamrock is a national rather than a religious emblem. How 
then does it become associated with St. Patrick? The legend goes— 

Ways and Traditions 395 

it is a late legend— that he held it before King Laegaire as a con- 
vincing argument for the Trinity. But St. Patrick was too good a 
theologian to illustrate that doctrine by such a simple-minded device. 
The trefoil resembles the Cross and it may have been used as a figure 
of it, and in that way become associated with the apostle of Christian- 
ity. It may go back to something older: the Triad was always significant 
for the Gaels. 6 

A Four-Leaved Shamrock 

A good many years ago a showman came to the town of Dingle and 
performed many tricks there. At one time he'd eat a dozen straws and 
then pull yards of ribbon from his throat. The strangest thing he 
showed me was a game-cock that he used to harness to a great log of 
wood. Men, women, and children were breaking their bones to see 
the cock, and he a small bird, drawing such a great weight of timber. 
One day, when the showman was driving the cock on the road towards 
Brandon mountain, he met a man with a bundle of grass on his back. 
The man was astonished to see crowds running after a cock drawing a 
straw behind him. 

"You fool," said the people, "don't you see the cock drawing a log 
of timber, and it would fail any horse to draw the like of it." 

"Indeed, then, I do not. I see a cock drawing a straw behind him, 
and sure I've seen the like many a time in my own place." 

Hearing this, the showman knew there was something in the grass, 
and going over to the man he asked the price he was asking for the 
bundle. The man did not wish to sell, but at last he parted with it for 
eighteen pence. The showman gave the grass to his boy and told him 
to go aside and drop it into the river. The boy did that, and when the 
bundle went down the stream the man was a big a fool as another; 
he ran after the cock with the crowd. 

That evening the same man was telling a friend how at first he saw 
the cock with a straw behind him, and then saw him drawing a great 
log of wood. "Oh, you fool," said his friend, "there was a four-leaved 
shamrock in the bundle of grass. While you had the shamrock, it kept 
every enchantment and devilment from you, and when you parted 
with it, you became as big a fool as the others." 

From Tales of the Fairies and of the Ghost World, collected from Oral Tradition 
in Southwest Munster, by Jeremiah Curtin, pp. 154-156. Little, Brown & Co 
Boston. 1895. 

396 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

Fairies : The Banshee and the Leprechaun 

Irish fairy lore is unlike the fairy lore of the rest of Europe in this 
respect: the fairy powers in Ireland have been endowed with names 
and personalities— they are not a nameless commonalty. And this en- 
dowment has left the fairies of Ireland more tangible and with more 
of a history than the fairy beings of other countries. How has it come 
that they have names and personalities? Alfred Nutt supposed that it 
was because each locality in Ireland had its special form of argicul- 
tural rites, its special name for the powers worshipped, its special 
version of their fortunes. He says, "Whether derived from the common 
Gaelic storehouse of mythic romance, or from local saga, the presence 
of names, of personalities, of distinctive groups of narrative connected 
with those personalities, gives a body, a reality, to the fairy world of 
Ireland lacking elsewhere." 

There are two preternatural beings who have distinct existences: 
the Leprechaun and the Banshee: they are both solitary. It is wrong 
to speak of a company of Leprechauns or a company of Banshees. 
However, it seems that the Leprechaun began his career as a member 
of a community: Lu-chorpan, "The Wee Bodies." The name of his 
nation became corrupted, and the corruption gave rise to the idea that 
"brog" or shoe made part of the name. The Leprechauns then be- 
came shoemakers, and like all shoemakers they became irascible and 
solitary. The solitary Leprechaun is now shoemaker to the fairies. His 
haunts are by old castles. A very little fellow, he is always engaged 
in his trade of shoemaking. If you are lucky enough to come upon 
him, draw close to him without making a sound. Take him in your 
grasp. Then ask him where the crocks of gold are hidden. Insist upon 
his telling; do not let your mind be dissipated by his talk. In the end 
he will cheat you; he will say or do something that will distract your 
attention, and when you look again, the Leprechaun will have dis- 
appeared. "Lurikeen" seems to be the County Kildare version of his 

The Banshee, literally the Fairy Woman (Bean Sidhe) has no abode. 
She comes near a house to wail for one who is about to die. 

Those who know how piercing is the caoine, the people's lament 
for the dead, will realize what a dread visitant the Banshee would be. 
In all respects this mysterious creature is like the "keener" or mourner 

By the editor. 

Ways and Traditions 397 

for the dead; those who have looked upon her describe her as draw- 
ing a comb through her hair; she is probably tearing her hair out in 
the manner of the ancient mourners. 

The Banshee haunts only the families of the "high Milesian race," 
that is, the families whose names are Gaelic by the "O" or "Mac" or 
any of the other prefixes. However, the Gaelic poets have granted a 
Banshee to some of the Norman-Irish families — the Fitzgeralds have 
been given one. She is a respecter of persons and haunts only those 
who are authentically of noble stock. 

The Shillelagh 

Let us consider this curiously named object. But first we will quote 
again from the old-time columnist of The Dublin Penny Journal 
who put the wood-sorrel in its place vis-a-vis the shamrock. "The 
customs of our country," he says authoritatively, "show that our people 
once dwelt under the greenwood tree; for an Irishman cannot walk or 
wander, sport or fight, buy or sell comfortably, without an oak stick 
in his fist. If he travels he will beg, borrow or steal a shillelagh; 
if he goes to play, he hurls with a crooked oak stick; if he goes to 
a fair, it is delightful to hear the sound of his clohel-peen on the 
cattle-horns; if he fights, as fight he must, at market or fair, the cudgel 
is brought on high." This was written a century ago. The oak, avail- 
able then, is not so available now; what passes for a shillelagh is a 
blackthorn stick pulled out of a hedge. 

The name, so attractive in its strangeness, is the name of a place 
in which there was once an oak-forest. Someone who wrote A Prac- 
tical Treatise on Planting back in the eighteenth century looked on 
the survivors of a forest that had given Ireland a title to fame, the 
forest of Shillelagh in County Wicklow. Here was a tree which 
"measured round the forked trunk upwards of twenty seven feet; 
round one of the stems, twenty feet; round the other, twelve, and is 
gross timber for more than forty feet in height." To our eyes one oak 
tree is very like another, provided there is some proportion between 
them. But not to one who writes practical treatises on planting. 
"The superior density and closeness of grain, which is the character 
of the Irish oak, particularly in high situations and a dry soil, as may 

By the editor. 

398 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

appear by comparing its specific gravity with that of other oak." And 
so the survivor of this particular forest is distinguished by the writer 
of the treatise for "its firmness of texture as well as its stately height 
and great dimensions." 

Macaulay in one of his essays speaks of the applause for an oration 
ringing from the rafters of Irish oak. That was in Westminster Hall. 
But that is not all of it. The oak of Shillelagh was so grand that it 
shared the immunity from base associations that other noble ma- 
terials — gold and the unicorn's horn — have. John Banim is repeating 
a piece of folklore, no doubt, when, in his dull novel, The Croppy, 
he speaks of a room in a mansion "solidly wainscoted with Shillelagh 
oak against which [as is said of the woodwork of Westminster Hall, 
also reputed Irish] the venomous spider of England durst not affix his 
web." And we hear, too, that '-'a sale was made of the finest timber of 
Shillelagh into Holland for the use of the Stadthouse." 

Would that one could attribute the destruction of a forest so grand 
and so historic to the roofing of historic buildings! But the doom of 
the forest of Shillelagh was for something much less lofty. The oaks 
were sold to London dealers for pipe-staves. And why not? The new 
proprietors of forfeited estates were out for quick returns, and stands 
of timber were easily exploited. "It is inconceivable what destruction 
was made in the course of twenty years," says our treatise-writer. And 
SO one of the glories of Ireland was sold at the rate of ten pounds per 
thousand staves. 

The place still keeps its name, and as one goes through the county 
of Wicklow one comes into a railway station in which the name 
"Shillelagh" is written up as if it were any other place name. Its oaks 
were world-famous; the cudgel cut from one, or, in time, from outside 
oaks, became "the sprig of Shillelagh," a cudgel used in man-to-man 
fighting. It must be a hundred years ago since it was made an emblem 
of the stage Irishman, for Crofton Croker notes, "The fearless way in 
which Jack Johnstone used to sing the following song, and the dexter- 
ous manner in which he accompanied it by flourishes of his shillelagh, 
will long be remembered by those who have witnessed his personifica- 
tion of the Irish character." And here, no doubt, we come on the root 
of the shillelagh's vogue. It could be used in the gesticulation of a 
vaudeville artist doing an Irish "turn." 

Oh! an Irishman's heart is as stout as shillelagh, 
It beats with delight to chase sorrow and woe; 
When the piper plays up, then it dances as gaily, 
And thumps with a whack to leather a foe. 

Ways and Traditions 399 

When we bring it down to this we know that the shillelagh is not an 
emblem; it is really a badge. 

The varnished blackthorn with green ribbons round it that the 
tourist brings back from "The Emerald Isle" is a simulacrum of a 
shillelagh. A shillelagh was an oaken cudgel; it was never swung; 
grasped in the middle, the knock that its knob delivered was by an 
arm and wrist movement. The other cudgel could guard and ward off 
the "whack." Skill had to come into play. 

Were there, then, no knock-down fights with shillelaghs? Readers 
of eighteenth-century Irish novels know that there were. The most 
dangerous encounters were between factions that carried on some 
ancient family feud or between parties who, naming themselves "Old 
Waistcoats" and "Old Cravats" built up for themselves big and excit- 
able followings. Theirs were stern shillelagh fights, and they make 
fairs loud with men's challenges and women's lamentations. "Who'll 
tread on the tail of my coat?" a man will challenge as he drags his coat 
on the ground before a crowd of men whose hands are clenched on 
their shillelaghs. Or, "Who'll say black is the white ot my eye?" Then 
there are engagements. Shillelaghs strike each other, or, breaking a 
guard, get in a whack on a head. A woman rushes over to lift up a 
man who has fallen, his head bloodied. Or — and this had happened 
often enough — to raise a lament over a man who has been killed by a 
powerful stroke. 

These dangerous engagements were brought to an end when the 
national leaders began to put a wide objective before the people — 
Catholic Emancipation or Repeal of the Union. The faction fights and 
the partisan feeling aroused by them had to be eradicted. New figures 
appear in the market-squares — the priest or a public-spirited gentle- 
man on horseback riding between the factions, appealing to them in 
the name of their religion or their country not to carry on with such 
senselessness. Then the great demonstrations that O'Connell staged 
suspended the factions. 

The Potato and the Clay Pipe 

Whether or not they are emblems in any innate sense is a question, 
but considering the attention that has been given them on the fringes 
of Hibemianism, it would be wrong to relegate the potato and the 
clay pipe to utter obscurity in such a compilation as this. The editor's 
researches have enabled him to discover two pieces that can be regarded 
as celebrations of these good ingredients of an Irish way of life. — P.C. 

400 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

The Potato* 

Sublime potatoesl that, from Antrim's shore 
To famous Kerry, form the poor man's store; 
Agreeing well with every place and state — 
The peasant's noggin, or the rich man's plate. 
Much prized when smoking from the teeming pot, 
Or in turf-embers roasted crisp and hot. 
Welcome, although you be our only dish; 
Welcome, companion to flesh, fowl, or fish; 
But to the real gourmands, the learned few, 
Most welcome, steaming in an Irish stew. 

My Pipe of Irish Clay| 

When I wish to solve those problems, which perplex the wisest men, 

And deduce abstruse conclusions, that transcend all human ken; 

When I wish to know the secrets which the pyramids infold, 

Or to understand the statecraft of Rameses Great of old, 

I just sit here quiet and easy, and all things seem clear as day, 

When I see the smoke a-curling from my pipe of Irish clay. 

But more dear to me than problems, or the Pharaohs and their kind, 

Are the pictures which I then see of the land I left behind; 

All the old haunts and the dear friends, all the things I used to do. 

The hopes and dreams of boyhood days, they all pass me in review; 

Sure I'm thinking I'm there again and beside sweet Dublin Bay, 

When I see the smoke a-curling from my pipe of Irish clay. 

I'm climbing up the Hill of Howth or I'm boating in the bay, 

I'm strolling by the Liffey's banks or I'm bathing down at Bray; 

I'm basking in the Phoenix Park, while the birds sing merrily. 

The fresh winds waft the atmosphere of the mountains and the sea, 

Or p'raps I'm on the Lucan road, eating berries large and ripe, 

When I send the smoke a-curling from my soft clay Dublin pipe. 

• From Thomas Crofton Croker'* Popular Songs of Ireland, an early nineteenth- 
century compilation. 
|From The Gael, September, 1904, p. 312. New York. 

Ways and Traditions 401 

Potato Specialties : Traditional Recipes 

I liked to sit and watch the men cutting the turf. One of the 
Reddins wielded the triangular slane. He had three helpers. As the 
dripping sods were cut, one man lifted them, two at a time, into the 
barrow. Mike Brophy wheeled the heavy barrow along the bank, and 
a fourth man went before him laying out the turf to dry. Later, the 
women would come to pile the turf loosely into little footings of 
five sods each, and when the footings had partially dried, they were 
erected in waist-high stacks to finish drying. Afterwards, the turf was 
wheeled out to the side of the road where it was built into a clamp 
and left there until the time came to draw it home. 

Grandmother always sent me out to the bog with Judy Ryan to take 
the men their dinner. 

We brought them stacks of round spongy griddle cakes and crusty 
loaves of currant bread. A whole shoulder of bacon which for the sake 
of extra flavour and tenderness had been cooled in the water in which 
it was boiled was cut up for the hungry men. 

We lit a fire on the bog to make their tea. Four big sods were 
selected and made into a square to form a hob. In the centre we piled 
little branches of withered heather and scraps of flaky dry turf. When 
the kindling had taken, we piled on bigger pieces of turf and soon we 
had a glowing fire. The blackened can of brownish water from the 
stream was set on the hob to boil. When it was bubbling, Judy dropped 
in a handful of tea and sugar, lifted off the can, and set the tea to draw 
while the men came running in answer to her call. 

They ate enormously and then lay on their backs for a little while 
in the heather before returning to their labour to work up an appetite 
for the still more enormous supper that awaited them in Gran's kitchen 
when day was done. 

My grandmother always said that a day without potatoes was a day 
without nourishment. She took a great pride in feeding her employees 
well, and for the turf-cutters' supper she always had, not ordinary 
boiled potatoes, but steamed potatoes, and sometimes thump. 

The potatoes to be steamed were scrubbed and put into the baker 
with a cupful of water. The baker was then covered, coals were piled 
on its lid and the potatoes were left to convert themselves into balls 

From Never No More, by Maura Laverty, pp. 55-58. Copyright, 1942, by Maura 
Laverty. Longmans, Green & Co. New York and London. 

402 A Treasury of Irish Folklore 

of flour. Knowing that butcher's meat would be a treat for these men 
who rarely tasted it except at Christmas or Easter, she generally had 
a big joint of John Dooley's good juicy beef for them, although the 
men would have been well content to make their supper off the 
steamed potatoes, topped and buttered and eaten with a spoon like 

But she gave them boiled beef as well, cooked with peas and carrots 
and onions a/id chopped cabbage, barley and dumplings. Sometimes 
she prepared a mock goose, spreading a great slice of steak with mashed 
potatoes, chopped scallions, lard, pepper and salt and a sprinkling 
of dried sage. The meat was rolled up, tied with tape and roasted. She 
basted it with milk and served it with a good brown gravy to which was 
added a tablespoonful of her mushroom ketchup. 

The only drawback to those evenings when she made thump for the 
turf-cutters was that no matter how much she prepared, the men never 
seemed to have sufficient of the creamy fluffy potato mixture. For 
thump, she boiled the potatoes whole in their jackets. When they were 
cooked, I peeled and beetled them with the big wooden beetle, while 
Gran boiled a handful of scallions to tenderness in a half-pint of milk. 
The milk and scallions were added to the potatoes together with pep- 
per and salt and a generous lump of butter and then the mixture was 
beaten until it was as white and light as freshly-fallen snow. 

With thump she gave them succulent chops browned to perfection 
before the fire in her big Dutch oven. 

Often the main dish was followed by a big rice pudding, yellow with 
eggs and richly spotted with raisins and sultanas, spicy cinnamon, and 
coated with a fragrant brown skin of nutmeg. Sometimes she un- 
earthed a few of last year's apples from their bed of hay in the loft 
and made them into a dumpling. 

Gran's apple dumplings, served with drawn butter, were a meal in 
themselves, rich, satisfying and full of flavour from the cloves and 
brown sugar. The tender pastry that wrapped the apples was a delight. 
She took five or six freshly cooked potatoes and bruised them on 
the baking-board with the bottom of a big delft mug. A cup of melted 
butter was sprinkled over them and a good pinch of salt. Then she 
worked in enough flour to bind the mixture and rolled it out. When 
the chopped apples, cloves, brown sugar and scraps of butter had been 
encased in rounds of pastry, the dumplings were tied up in scalded and 
floured squares cut from a well-boiled flour-bag and put down to cook 
in boiling water. 

When supper was over, the men liked to sit around the kitchen fire. 
Drowsy with food and their day's hard labour on the bog, they were 

Ways and Traditions 403 

content to sit without speaking. Whichever of the Reddin boys hap- 
pened to be present would usually take a French fiddle from his 
pocket and play softly the plaintive old tunes of Carolan and Rose 
Mooney and the other Irish harpers. 

His playing was good, for all the Reddins were natural musicians, 
but we were always relieved